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Department of Health and Social Services Confirms Privacy Breach

The Department of Health and Social Services is informing residents of the Northwest Territories of a security breach regarding health information.

On May 9, 2018, a laptop containing health information was stolen from a locked vehicle in the Ottawa area.

“The information was collected under the Public Health Act and contained patient names, health care card numbers, dates of birth, health diseases/conditions, and communities of residence. Although the device had strong password protection, the device was not encrypted,” according to press release from the department.

The department’s Chief Privacy Officer has concluded her initial investigation and determined that a privacy breach did occur because the data was unencrypted, but they have no evidence that the data was accessed by an outside party. The Northwest Territories Information and Privacy Commissioner has been notified.

“I would like to apologize to our residents,” says Minister of Health and Social Services, Glen Abernathy.

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“We must ensure that we are taking all necessary steps to protect the private health information of our residents.  I have directed our officials to ensure that patients’ personal health information is protected at all times,” says minister Abernathy. 

The Department of Health and Social Services says it has taken steps in response to the theft and to prevent any future breaches, including working with the Department of Infrastructure to ensure all Health and Social Services laptops and electronic devices are encrypted. The department also says it will provide additional training sessions for staff, require new employees to receive privacy training and make sure that departmental policies are clear that encryption is required on all portable devices.



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