Internet scammers obtain client information from Quebec government publications web site

By Robert Frank

The Quebec government temporarily shut down the website that it uses to sell its official publications to the public, June 21, after clients began to receive suspicious electronic mail messages telling them that they had won large sums of money.

The messages used confidential information that could only have originated from their user accounts with the Publications du Québec website:

Recipients were told, “You have won 120,000 Euros,” and directed to contact an individual purporting to be a lawyer in France named Diabate Oumar.

The messages contained an attachment telling Publications du Québec clients that they had won “a lottery sponsored by Microsoft founder Bill Gates” and that they had just 48 hours to claim their prize.

Though this particular scam has been directed to various Internet users for at least five years, it is the first known instance where it has been circulated using confidential Quebec government database information, raising questions about the province’s Internet security provisions.

The Publications du Québec website was back up and running the following day, June 22.

Quebec Treasury Board spokesman Clément Falardeau told The Suburban that he had contacted technicians responsible for the website, but was unable to provide details before the provincial government shut down for the annual St. Jean Baptiste holiday weekend.

It therefore remains unclear how many Quebec government websites were affected, what confidential client data was compromised, how many customers were affected and what remedial measures the provincial government has undertaken to prevent a recurrence.

At the time The Suburban went to press, Publications du Québec clients had not yet been notified that their personal information might have been jeopardized. 

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