February 21, 2019

Singapore officials blame American for leaking patients' HIV records

29 January 2019, 12:43 | Randall Craig

A man pins an HIV awareness ribbon to his shirt. The HIV-positive status of thousands of people was leaked from a Singaporean database this month

A man pins an HIV awareness ribbon to his shirt. The HIV-positive status of thousands of people was leaked from a Singaporean database this month

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 information was said to have been held and leaked by Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, 33, an American who was teaching in a polytechnic in Singapore till June 2016.

March 2017: Farrera-Brochez was convicted of several fraud and drug-related offences, and sentenced to 28 months' jail.

In addition, MOH said Ler has been charged under the OSA for failing to take reasonable care of confidential information regarding HIV-positive patients.

Personal information belonging to 14,200 individuals diagnosed with HIV has been leaked online by an American living in Singapore and who had illegally accessed the data through his partner. The information included each person's name, identification number, phone number and address, HIV test results, and related medical information.

"We are sorry for the anxiety and distress caused by this incident", the ministry said.

The ministry said they were "progressively contacting the individuals" affected to inform them they had been doxxed.

It comes after the health records of 1.5 million Singaporeans, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, were stolen in a suspected state-sponsored attack in June and July, the country's biggest ever data breach.

The ministry said it had worked with the "relevant parties" to disable access to the information.

The leaked records belonged to 5 400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed with HIV up until December 2011, the ministry said. MOH lodged another police report, and contacted the affected individuals.

"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.

"Police will not hesitate to take stern action, including prosecution, against those who have breached the OSA".

In a statement, the health ministry blamed Ler for the breach, accusing him of not complying with the policies regarding the handling of confidential data. His partner previously had access to the HIV registry for his work, it said.

Ler resigned in January 2014 and was convicted of abetting Brochez to commit fraud and providing false information to the police and Health Ministry.

Police in Singapore said they would prosecute anyone found sharing the leaked HIV Registry data under the Official Secrets Act, Channel News Asia reported.

Only when the police notified MOH last week (22 Jan) that the confidential information possessed by Farrera-Brochez has been leaked online that MOH made a decision to inform the public yesterday.

He is appealing the two-year prison sentence he received and is scheduled to be heard in March 2019.

The ministry said it was notified last Tuesday that "more information" could be in Brochez's possession and that it had been disclosed online.

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