Ex-Singapore convict leaks HIV records

Since the leak of personal details about 14,200 Singaporeans with HIV, the Ministry of Health says it has been contacting patients affected to provide assistance.

A US hacker has leaked data relating to 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed with HIV between 1985 and January 2013 and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed between 1985 and 2011, further reinforcing the image of vulnerability to hacking in the tech-dominated city-state.

It comes after Singapore last year revealed the worst cyberattack in its history after hackers infiltrated the government health database in a separate incident with the records of 1.5 million Singaporeans, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, stolen.

The week’s leak involved the details of test results, names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses and other health information.

Among the 5,400 Singaporeans and permanent residents whose data was leaked, 1,900 are purportedly dead.

Chan Heng Kee, permanent secretary for health, said that the ministry was trying to contact the remaining 3,500 patients, with about 1,000 successfully reached as of yesterday (Monday).

A hotline had been set up for those affected, and counselling would be offered, Chan said.
If the public came across any information they were asked to contact the ministry and not share the data further.

While the authorities claim access to the data had been blocked, it was still in the possession of the hacker, US citizen Mikhy Farrera Brochez, and could still be publicly disclosed in the future, the Ministry of Health admitted.

Brochez, 33, lived in Singapore from 2008 and was convicted in 2017 on numerous drug-related and fraud offences, including lying to the Ministry of Manpower about his HIV status, the ministry said.

It said Brochez was deported after jail time and was now living overseas.

The ministry was claimed Brochez was HIV-positive and used his Singaporean husband’s blood to pass tests so he could continue to work in Singapore, the ministry said.

Until 2015, foreigners with HIV were not allowed to visit Singapore, even as tourists.
Now anyone who wants to stay beyond 90 days, including for work, is subject to medical screening to make sure they do not have the virus.

His husband, Ler Teck Siang, the former head of the National Public Health authority from March 2012 to May 2013, had access to the HIV registry for his work, it said.

The ministry said Ler was believed to have “mishandled” the information.

“I’m sorry that one of our former staff who was authorised to have access to confidential information in our HIV registry appears to not have complied with our security guidelines,” Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told the media.

The Singapore authorities said they were asking for international help to investigate Brochez.

Singaporeans invest heavily in health care. Picture credit: Flickr