Privacy office to investigate North Saanich computer theft

District of North Saanich staff had two laptops stolen between Nov. 15 and 17 from municipal hall.

Update: to correct terminology of OIPC B.C.’s involvement in a potential privacy breach and add response from the District of North Saanich. – editor

A spokesperson for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of B.C. says their office was notified of a potential privacy breach after the theft of two laptop computers from the District of North Saanich.

Municipal hall was broken into sometime between the Sat., Nov. 15 civic election and  Nov. 17. Sidney North Saanich RCMP reported electronic equipment was taken in the break-in.

Corporal Erin Fraser said that there’s no indication there was any information related to the municipal election on the stolen devices.

A notice on the District’s website states two laptops were taken. They were located in a locked building at the time, stated the notice and are password protected. The municipality reports they did not contain property, tax or personnel files.

“The District has prevented all access to the District’s computer systems from the laptops,” said the notice on the District’s website, “and we can confirm that there has been no unauthorized access.”

The District added they will be working both with police and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to address privacy concerns.

Cara McGregor, a spokesperson for the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner confirmed they were told of the incident. She said the notification from the District came on Fri., Nov. 21. The office will work with the District to determine if there was a breach and help ensure the municipality did its due diligence in the protection of people’s private information.

In general terms, McGregor said the office works with organizations in an investigation to cover four steps:

• take adequate steps to contain the breach

• properly evaluate the risks associated with the breach

• notify affected individuals, as appropriate

• develop a plan to reduce the risk of similar future breaches.

Rob Buchan, the District’s Chief Administrative Officer, says the municipality determined on the Wednesday following the election that there had been the theft and potential privacy breach. They notified the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner at that time, opening an evaluation of the District’s privacy protection policies and its due diligence in carrying that out.

Buchan noted he doesn’t think this will result in any changes to how the District protects information and that this incident was an illegal break-in.

Mayor Alice Finall told the News Review on Nov. 25 the investigation is in the hands of the RCMP and that the OIPC is also looking into it.

Finall, who recently underwent knee surgery, said she hasn’t been into the office lately but noted she knows staff have done their best to maintain privacy within their systems.

“I haven’t heard of any serious issues,” she said in regards to security at municipal hall. “I don’t think there have been any break-ins in the past.”

Access to the building, she added, is via secure password entry. She said she has not been told how the culprits got into the building.

The police investigation continues and the RCMP asks if anyone has information on this case to call the RCMP or CrimeStoppers.