One of Canada’s leading privacy experts is outraged that hackers were able to access the data of thousands of patients and hospital employees in the Newfoundland and Labrador healthcare system.

“It’s appalling,” former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian, now executive director of the Global Privacy and Security by Design Centre, said in an interview. “What is wrong with these people in terms of the lack of security?”

Last week the province acknowledged that at the end of October, unnamed attackers accessed what it called basic admitting information of hospital patients as well as current and former employee data in three of its four health districts.

In the case of the biggest, the Eastern Health authority — which includes the provincial capital of St. John’s — data goes back 14 years. For another region, the data goes back 13 years and the third region nine years.

The government has given few details about the attack because there is an ongoing investigation, and it doesn’t want to divulge security-related information to hackers who are watching the press conferences. One thing is clear: The data wasn’t completely segregated. Provincial health and community services minister John Haggie told reporters last week that “health and employee information is shared across a network.”

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