Through the assistance of an external privacy and security expert, Interior Health (IH) has concluded a comprehensive review of a privacy breach involving the personal information of about 500 current and former employees and found no evidence of further breaches.
The breach came to light as part of RCMP investigations and arrests in the Lower Mainland in June and September of this year, as reported in the News Release from Sept. 29, 2017, and was limited to employee information.
The review, which spanned two months, was unable to determine how the breach occurred, or whether the information was accessed by an individual or individuals internal or external to IH. It was, however, able to identify a likely timeframe of December 2009 when unknown access to an IH employee database appears to have occurred. This database contained the personal information of all individuals employed with IH between January 2003 and December 2009, including social insurance numbers, dates of birth, email and mailing addresses, phone numbers, and/or former last name.
“We are stressing to these individuals there is no indication their information has been breached or used in an unlawful way,” says Mal Griffin, Vice-President for Human Resources. “Still, we want employees to be aware that the 2009 database was unknowingly accessed and they should be diligent, as we all should be, with personal information.”
As a result, IH is urging current and former employees working in the health authority during the timeframe noted to take extra precautions with their personal information.
This includes being careful with credits cards, not keeping written records of passwords, avoiding carrying more identification than needed such as social insurance cards or passports, and shredding or destroying documents or paperwork that contain personal or financial information.
If employees have concerns that their information may have been breached or they may have been a victim of identity theft, they should call both the RCMP and IH. IH has established a phone line for current and former employees, 1-877-469-7059, available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
“Recognizing that identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada, at Interior Health we are doing our part by continually monitoring and enhancing our systems and processes,” says Griffin.
“What we have in place today is far more advanced than in 2009. Like other organizations, we’ve changed our practices, enacted more stringent privacy practices, and are using a diverse range of technologies and security mechanisms to ensure the safety, confidentiality and integrity of personal information.”
IH continues to keep the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner informed of all developments related to this breach and the review.