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Data loss a global endemic as Canadian Health Agency admits to Major Hack

News just in from Canada confirms that database disasters are not just confined to UK government agencies, after sensitive patient information has been accessed by persons unknown on a Canadian health agency computer.

"Police in Newfoundland are reported to be investigating to what degree hackers have accessed medical information - including test results on HIV and hepatitis - on a desktop computer that was taken home by a consultant," said Calum Macleod, european director with Cyber-Ark, the digital vaulting and database encryption specialist.

"The case came to light late last week after a health agency issued a media release on the hack of the data, which was collated by the Provincial Public Health Laboratory in Newfoundland," he added.

According to Macleod, the consultant only became aware of the hack when he was called by someone who identified himself as a representative of a computer security company.

"Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Ross Wiseman says that health department guidelines have been broken by the consultant concerned, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the release of sensitive medical information could be a personal disaster for the patients concerned," he said.

"It's bad enough for a patient to be HIV positive, but then being told there is a risk that their medical status could be broadcast on the Internet is additional, and unnecessary suffering," he added.

Macleod went to to say that, if the medical information on the consultant's computer had been encrypted, the hacking incident would never have occurred.

"It’s clear after last week’s disastrous HMRC loss of 25 million records in the UK and now that the Canadian’s have admitted to this dreadful breach of such private information, that lack of security in the public sector is clearly endemic right across the globe. I dread to think about all the other cases that we never get to hear about." he noted.

Désiré Athow
Contributor

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.