Saturday, 20 April, 2019

Singapore HIV registry data leaked online in health breach

HIV records of more than 14,000 people leaked in Singapore Singapore says deported American leaked confidential data of 14200 people with HIV
Celia Hoffman | 29 January, 2019, 12:42

Singaporean officials assured the public that they had installed additional security measures to protect patients' health data in 2016, three years after Brochez stole the HIV files.

The ministry said Brochez worked in Singapore as a lecturer for a period before he was jailed for several drug and fraud-related offences and deported past year. The HIV information leak was not related to the cyberbreach.

Singapore's health ministry has accused an American of stealing and leaking the records of 14,200 people infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, before January 2013.

The records contained individuals' names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses, test results and a slew of other health information.

The Ministry of Health, which was notified of the leak by the police on January 22, also reports that the name, identification number, phone number, and address of 2,400 people identified through contact tracing were also included in the leak, per the Straits Times.

"Ler had authority to access information in the HIV Registry as required for his work", the release explains, noting that the physician was charged in June 2016 and convicted in September 2018 for helping Brochez cheat and provide false information to the police and Health Ministry. From June 27 to July 4 a year ago, hackers infiltrated the computers of SingHealth and stole the personal particulars of 1.5 million patients, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The exposed records belong to 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV before January 2013, and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed before December 2011, the MOH said.

He added: "I also understand the concerns, the anxiety and distress faced by our affected patients and our priority is their well-being".

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"We are working with relevant parties to scan the Internet for signs of further disclosure of the information", it said, adding that Brochez now was under police investigation and local authorities were seeking assistance from their foreign counterparts.

The ministry said it has put more safeguards in place to prevent information from being mishandled. "Police will not hesitate to take stern action, including prosecution, against those who have breached the OSA", said a spokesman. "A person found guilty of the wrongful possession, communication or use of confidential data shall be liable to a fine not exceeding S$2,000 [roughly $1,500 US], and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years", a police statement said.

March 2012 - May 2013: Ler was head of the Health Ministry's National Public Health Unit and had access to the HIV Registry.

Meanwhile, Ler was charged in 2016 under the Penal Code and Official Secrets Act (OSA).

"The information has been illegally disclosed online", it said.

Ler, 36, had the authority to access information in the HIV Registry at MOH.

While the MOH statement doesn't give an exact motive for the leak, it does state that it was the result of "mishandling of information by Ler, who is suspected of not having complied with the policies and guidelines on the handling of confidential information".

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