Hard drive with personal info on 3.4 million B.C. and Yukon students lost

The Canadian Press reports:

The B.C. government says a hard drive containing personal information and student records of 3.4 million residents in British Columbia and Yukon has been lost.

Technology Minister Amrik Virk says the unencrypted data from 1986 to 2009 also includes information about children in care, teacher retirement and graduation dates for cancer survivors.

[…]

The minister says the hard drive also contains decades worth of names, grades, postal codes and personal education numbers.

Read more on Globe and Mail.

Were these data unencrypted, as I fear? (Answer: YES). What physical security did the government have for this drive?

For a more detailed listing of the 437 GB of contents of this drive containing 8,766 folders with 138,830 files, see this release from the government.

Update: The govt recognizes what was apparent from inspection of their contents description: that it is possible to identify individual students:

In total, the missing hard drive contains about 3.4 million education records tied to individuals between 1986 and 2009, and includes their names, postal codes, grades and personal education numbers.

There are also a smaller number of records in files that include more sensitive personal information, such as:

  • 825 survey results from 2003 of teachers aged 53 or older on their retirement plans.
  • 1,052 personal education numbers, birth years, and grad dates for cancer survivors from a study on their education outcomes.
  • 9,273 personal education numbers connected to children in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development before 2006-07, including information such as health and behaviour issues and supervision status.

This sensitive information could be connected to names by comparing the personal education numbers to names through the larger data file.

One particularly sensitive file contains information on 200 students who dropped out of school and the reasons and family factors, etc., with a field for detailed comments.

The backup file was created in 2011. The government does not seem to note when it was last inventoried or seen.

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