Yukon student information held on missing B.C. hard drive

The Yukon's deputy minister of education says the territory will need assurances that data is being kept safe before it sends any more information about Yukon students to the B.C. government.

The Yukon’s deputy minister of education says the territory will need assurances that data is being kept safe before it sends any more information about Yukon students to the B.C. government.

Judy Arnold said she found out Tuesday morning that information about approximately 8,000 Yukon students was included on an unencrypted back-up hard drive that has gone missing in B.C.

A total of 3.4 million files were affected, mostly British Columbians, dating as far back as 1986, the province announced yesterday.

B.C. officials have assured the public the data is considered low risk for identity theft because details like social insurance or health numbers were not on the missing drive.

 

RELATED: The complete list of the type of information that’s missing.

 

There is no indication of fraud or identity theft as a result of the misplaced drive, they said.

As far as Yukoners’ records are concerned, the drive has names, genders, birthdates, postal codes and personal education numbers for all Yukon Kindergarten to Grade 12 students from 1991 to 2009.

A separate file on the drive contains student exam and course information for the Yukon from 1991 to 2008. That particular file identifies students by number.

The drive also contains 2007/2008 graduation information for 370 Yukon students and a 2007 file with information on 162 Yukon students participating in distance learning, including their school and courses.

Arnold said she has “serious, serious concerns” about the loss.

Yukon uses B.C.‘s curriculum and Yukon students write B.C. exams, which is why data is shared with the province, Arnold explained.

The next set of information is scheduled to be sent in November after students finish exams, she said. But before that happens Arnold said she’ll need to hear more from B.C. about how the unencrypted drive was lost, how the situation is being dealt with, and what specific Yukon information was on the drive.

“I believe we must follow up and say give me more details of exactly what information (went missing),” she said.

“That’s one of the priorities we’ve got here.”

B.C.‘s minister of technology, Amrik Virk, said Tuesday that two investigations have been started, one by B.C.‘s chief information officer and the other by the privacy commissioner, to try and figure out what went wrong.

“There’s no doubt that a mistake was made,” he said.

“First in how the hard drive was created and secondly in how it was stored and the bottom line is that this should not have happened.”

Both of the investigations will be made public when they are complete, he said.

The hard drive was created in 2011 as a backup so that the department would have access to information in the event of a natural disaster.

Information like this should have been stored on the department’s secure servers, Virk said. Instead, this drive is believed to have been left in a locked room in a department warehouse.

That warehouse was searched in August, but the hard drive was not found.

Arnold said the Yukon’s privacy commissioner will be conducting her own risk assessment to determine what additional safeguards could be put in place.

The Yukon Department of Education is reviewing its information-sharing agreements with B.C. to ensure that these agreements have protection against this kind of potential breach, she said.

On top of that, the department is reviewing how it stores and maintains information so that it never falls into this type of situation, she said.

Yukoners can call collect to Service B.C. at 1-604-660-2421 to find out if their information is affected by the loss.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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