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On November 5th, the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada agency in Gatineau, Quebec found that an external hard drive was missing from their office. This unencrypted hard drive had the names, social insurance numbers (much like American social security numbers), date of birth, loan balances and contact information for over 583 thousand individuals. This list was of students borrowing from the years 2000 through 2006.
Last Friday, January 11th, the agency announced the breach to the public. It had taken more than two months, however, to start an internal investigation and get this information to the affected public. The authorities have been called and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are currently involved in the investigation. The Vancouver Sun explained that this could be “one of the largest privacy lapses in Canadian history.”
This lost hard drive was discovered in the midst of a different investigation regarding the loss of a USB key containing the data of over five thousand Canadian citizens, making this the second breach in just a few weeks. The hard drive was not encrypted, as is required by the government, and the hardware itself was not approved for use in the first place.
Although it is believed that there has been no fraudulent or malicious activity with this information, Diane Finley, the Human Resources Minister is working to impose much stricter processes in order to keep these sorts of breaches from happening in the future.
The federal government has been charged with contacting the more than half-million affected individuals and informing them of the data breach. There has also been a published number (1.866.885.1866) that affected persons can call to get any questions they have answered.
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