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Security & privacy

Alberta government info not secure, AG says

EDMONTON – Alberta’s auditor general issued a report stating that confidential government records – including health records – had been accessed by outside sources without authorization. The auditor general, Fred Dunn, outlined the problems in his annual report.

“There’s an unacceptably high risk,” Dunn said when asked about the safety of Alberta’s government information. The auditor general’s department looked at the government’s web application and network security, wireless access point security and physical protection of data facilities. It found “significant weaknesses” in each area.

According to the Edmonton Journal, while the auditor general’s department found significant problems as far back as April and May, it decided not to publicize the information for fear that hackers could “attack Alberta,” Dunn said.

As for the outside sources whose electronic “footprints” had been found, Dunn said the department does not know who they are or what they might have done with the information.

Significant improvements have since been made in some security areas, Dunn said. His report recommended establishing a central security office to protect such data. “We’re not aware of anyone being negatively impacted by this, but there’s a risk.”

However, Heather Klimchuk, the minister of Service Alberta, which is responsible for the government’s computer infrastructure, said there is no evidence Albertans’ personal information was at risk, and said her staff has worked with Dunn to fix the problem, “updating, and checking and tightening security ... through all the departments.”

Klimchuk told CBC News that, “Because of the proactive measures of this new ministry, working with the auditor general, we have made huge strides since he began his work in January.”

She downplayed the evidence Dunn found of “footprints” on the government’s websites.

“Essentially someone went in there and tried to mess around with the website. They tried to upload some graffiti on a website page. That’s the only access they had,” she said.

“It’s like a house in a garage. They may have gotten into the garage. They did not get into the house.”

Klimchuk said she has the support of the premier and cabinet to hire a chief security officer to handle computer security for the entire Alberta government.