Sensitive data may have been accessed by unknown persons after a computer was taken home by a consultant

Sensitive patient information has been accessed by unknown persons on a Canadian health agency computer.

Commenting on the data breach, Calum Macleod, european director with Cyber-Ark, said: "Police in Newfoundland are reported to be investigating to what degree hackers have accessed medical information - including test results on HIV and hepatitis - on a desktop computer that was taken home by a consultant."

He added: "The case came to light late last week after a health agency issued a media release on the hack of the data, which was collated by the Provincial Public Health Laboratory in Newfoundland.’

According to Macleod, the consultant only became aware of the hack when he was called by someone who identified himself as a representative of a computer security company.

"Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Ross Wiseman says that health department guidelines have been broken by the consultant concerned, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the release of sensitive medical information could be a personal disaster for the patients concerned," he said.

"It's bad enough for a patient to be HIV positive, but then being told there is a risk that their medical status could be broadcast on the Internet is additional, and unnecessary suffering," he added.

Macleod went on to say that, if the medical information on the consultant's computer had been encrypted, the hacking incident might have been prevented.

"It’s clear after last week’s disastrous HMRC loss of 25 million records in the UK and now that the Canadian’s have admitted to this dreadful breach of such private information, that lack of security in the public sector is clearly endemic right across the globe. I dread to think about all the other cases that we never get to hear about." he noted.