POZlife

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Medical Records Hacked In Canadian Province

Posted by pozlife on November 27, 2007


by The Canadian Press

Posted: November 26, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET

(St. John’s Newfoundland) Police are investigating whether computer hackers viewed sensitive patient information, including test results on HIV and hepatitis, that was on a Newfoundland government computer.

Attorney General Jerome Kennedy said the release of the information from a computer taken home by a private-sector consultant is “a very serious matter that required immediate action.’’

He said police are investigating to see “if there is any illegal activity or hacking.’’

He said in an interview that it’s still not clear how many patient records were accessed on from the databank collected by the Provincial Public Health Laboratory.

“We don’t now the extent of the breach, we just know a breach has occurred,’’ he said.

A news release said the material involved included “names, health numbers, age, sex, physician and test results for infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis.’’

The province says that the files were obtained through an open Internet connection when the files were on the computer that was brought home by the consultant on contract with the lab.

The consultant became aware of the breach when called by someone who identified himself as a representative of a computer security company.

The caller claimed he was in possession of some of the patient information stored on the consultant’s computer.

Both Kennedy and Health Minister Ross Wiseman said they believe department guidelines had been breached by the consultant bringing the materials home.

“These are the sort of things that are being looked at by the Health Department,’’ said Kennedy.

“The computer equipment and the information on in it should not have been outside the office.’’

Kennedy claimed the incident appears to “be an isolated situation,’’ and that no files were lost from the province’s wider computer network.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is investigating to see if any criminal charges can be laid.

In a news release, the police force said they’re in the process of assessing the information, but “due to the sensitive nature of this matter,’’ it would not provide any further information at this time.

The province’s Office of the Chief Information Officer is also opening a formal investigation into the incident.

No patients have been informed of the security breach and the Health Department doesn’t expect to have information on the incident until a private consultant has examined the computer involved over the next few days.

The lab acts as Newfoundland’s centre for infectious disease surveillance and control, and also provides lab services to the province’s hospitals and clinics.

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