Personal data of a large number of people who took part in the Netherlands’ coronavirus track-and-trace programme has been stolen.
The news that the data had been leaked was confirmed by the Dutch health authorities (GGD) on Friday, Reuters reported.
The GGD confirmed a media report that data had been stolen and apologised for what it said were two separate leaks.
The bad news is that according to the official statement, the authorities did not know how many people were affected by the data theft, but warned it could be in the thousands.
The leak was first reported by Dutch broadcaster RTL, and the GGD then confirmed the leaks, which included names and addresses.
But much worse is the fact that the leak also reportedly included social security numbers, telephone numbers, and even test results.
According to the GGD, the data leaks were from its core track-and-trace system, and not the smartphone app, which has been closely scrutinised for potential privacy weaknesses.
And it seems that there is an element of an insider job here.
Reuters reported that in one instance, GGD employees targeted the personal information of a small number of prominent individuals. In the other instance, an entire data set was leaked and offered for sale online though it was not clear whether anyone bought the data.
“If people who mean ill intentionally take data out of a system, that’s almost impossible to stop,” the GGD reportedly said.
The GGD acknowledged people may now be reluctant to participate in its track-and-trace programme because of the leak, but said it would do its best to restore public confidence.
“We are working closely with the police, justice and data and cybercrime specialists,” it reportedly added. “People who have crossed the line will be fired, simply, and weak spots in our security will be identified and strengthened.”
The news of the leak could not come at a worse time for authorities in the Netherlands, after the entire Dutch government resigned in mid January over a child welfare fraud scandal.
The Netherlands has been rocked by violent protests over a government decision to impose a night-time curfew, on top of a months-long lockdown, in an effort to try to control the pandemic.
The Dutch government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte is also being criticised because the Netherlands was the last among European Union countries to begin Cororavirus vaccinations.
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