A teenager faces upwards of 10 years in prison for downloading 7,000 freedom of information releases that contained people’s sensitive personal information.

On 11 April, Nova Scotia’s police raided the home of a yet-unnamed 19-year-old. As many as 15 officers seized computer equipment from the teen, who lives with his parents and siblings and is in the process of completing his secondary education. They also confiscated devices owned by his father, thereby preventing him from doing his job, and questioned his younger brother and sister.

The provincial government of Nova Scotia subsequently charged the teenager with “unauthorized use of a computer.” If convicted, the teen could spend 10 years in prison.

On Friday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the person who downloaded the documents ‘stole’ the information. (Canadian Press)

According to CBC News, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the charge is appropriate considering the young man’s act of “stealing” 7,000 documents off the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) website. Those releases contained the personal information of thousands of Nova Scotians including their days of birth, addresses and social insurance numbers. They did not include residents’ payment card details.

A government employee discovered the breach by accident in April when they found that a typing error in the number at the end of the website’s address granted access to documents he didn’t have the necessary permissions to view. When the provincial government learned of the weakness, it took down the portal and began working with Unisys, a third-party provider, to understand the full scope of the issue. The Coast reported that officials notified Halifax’s Regional Police when they discovered that someone had downloaded releases off the site. The police ultimately traced the breach back to the teen.

As of this writing, officials are (Read more...)