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The personal details of 14,200 HIV-positive Singaporeans have been published online in a malicious attack by a convicted criminal.
Mikhy K Farrera Brochez, a U.S citizen is reported to have gained access to the information through his former partner Dr. Ler Teck Siang who was once the head of the Ministry of Health’s National Public Health Unit. Farrera Brochez lived in Singapore for 8 years before he was deported over fraud offenses.
The Ministry of Health says the leak source has been ‘disabled’, but if Brochez retained personal copies of the data it may surface again. The information relates to 14,200 individuals who were diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013.
The ministry says they are working with ‘relevant parties to scan the Internet for signs of further disclosure of the information.’ The Ministry apologized for the leak and say they are working with the affected parties.
Ministry of Health transparent about leak source
“We are sorry for the anxiety and distress caused by this incident. Our priority is the wellbeing of the affected individuals. Since 26 January, we have been progressively contacting the individuals to notify them and render assistance, “ the Ministry says in a statement.
Anyone that comes across the information online is urged to report it immediately and “not further share it.”
The registry is alleged to contain the name, ID number, phone number, email address, HIV test results and related medical information for 5,400 Singapore nationals who were diagnosed with HIV up to January 2013. It includes the same details for 8,800 foreigners as of December 2011 and the details of 2,400 related contacts up to May 2007.
The Ministry of Health says they first became aware that Brochez had access to the private information back in 2016 and immediately made a police report that resulted in Brochez’s home being searched and materials seized. However, it appears that he kept copies of some of the information which was used in this recent attack.
Doctor charged with mishandling personal information
The Ministry points to the mishandling of the information by Dr. Ler Teck Siang as the clear source of the hack. Ler was charged in Court in June 2016 for offenses under the Penal Code and the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
In September last year, he was convicted of abetting Brochez to commit cheating, and also of providing false information to the Police and MOH.
He is appealing the two-year prison sentence he received and is scheduled to be heard in March 2019. In addition to these serious charges, Ler is also facing charges relating to taking reasonable care of confidential information regarding HIV-positive patients.
Singapore takes over archaic view of HIV . Foreigners with a positive HIV status are not eligible for long term work permits.
Brochez was sentenced to 28 months in jail in 2017 for offenses related to him using his partner's blood sample in place of his own for an HIV test that would have affected his employment status.
This is the second mass breach of confidential medical information in Singapore within 18 months. Last year a malicious hack revealed the patient records of over 1.5 million citizens.