VICTORIA -- A “criminal” cyberattack will delay COVID-19 rebate cheques that were supposed to be in the mail this week, says the minister responsible for British Columbia's public auto insurance agency.

Mike Farnworth said Thursday the Insurance Corporation of B.C. discovered last weekend the private Ontario company it hired to print and distribute the rebate cheques was the victim of a cybersecurity breach.

“Obviously, it is a criminal attack of a criminal nature,” he said at a news conference.

Farnworth said an investigation is underway, which will involve ICBC working with the Kanata, Ont., company it hired to print and distribute the rebate cheques and other cybersecurity investigators.

He did not name the company.

“The only information that the vendor would have had would have been addresses and names, no personal data other than that,” Farnworth said.

Farnworth said last month the rebates to policy holders will range from $25 to $400 after ICBC saved about $600 million last year due to low accident claims during the pandemic.

He said he expected the delay in delivery of the rebate cheques to policy holders will be several weeks.

The insurance corporation said in a statement that the cyberattack did not affect its own systems, which are secure.

The corporation says it has contacted B.C.'s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner about the breach.

The privacy commissioner's office said in a statement Thursday it could not discuss the ICBC situation directly but advises agencies to take the following actions in the event of a cyberattack: contain the breach, evaluate the risks, notify affected individuals and take action to prevent future breaches.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.