January 11, 2016 4:53 pm
Updated: January 11, 2016 7:01 pm

Halifax lawyer calls military hard drive discovery a ‘horrible breach of security’

WATCH ABOVE: There are more questions than answers for answers following the discovery of a military computer hard drive by a Halifax man. The drive contained thousands of pages of personal information, blueprints for a navy ship, encrypted emails and much more. As Global's Natasha Pace reports, the military is now investigating what went wrong.

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Since the start of the new year, CFB Halifax has seen three security breaches, something one Halifax lawyer says is a major concern.

Mike Taylor represented Jeffrey Delisle, a Halifax naval officer convicted of espionage after admitting he sold secrets to Russia in 2013. He says he’s worried for the Department of Defence, DND, as a whole in light of the most recent security concerns.

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“I’d be very concerned if I was the Defence establishment,” Taylor said.

“I’m sure other allies are a little concerned about this as well. It doesn’t speak very highly.”

Taylor added that there are a series of issues when it comes to security in the military, and that he’s “astounded” there are still breaches after the Delisle controversy.

“We all heard quite a flurry of activity going on about the steps that they were going to take to make sure security was beefed up and this seemed to be sort of a one-off almost,” Taylor told Global News.

“It’s pretty clear to see that this wasn’t a one-off, and it doesn’t seem that they’ve paid the attention they should have to their security issues.”

“It’s amazing that it’s still happening, especially to this extent”

Military hard drive found in recycle depot

Military officials have confirmed that a hard drive found by a Halifax man belongs to them, and they are working to determine how it got into the hands of a local citizen.

Pete Stevens told Global News on Friday that found the drive at a recycling depot in Dartmouth nearly a year ago.

When he ran a simple software recovery program on it, he discovered it contained thousands of pages of information, blueprints for navy ships, training manuals and personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers and completed security applications of military members.

The discovered hard drive was brought to the military’s attention following an investigation by Global News. Officials are still combing the drive to see exactly what is on it and determine where it came from.

Most of the information contained on the drive appeared to be from the years 1999-2006 and deals with HMCS Halifax.

“It is ours, even if from another period, and issues are evident in its poor disposal,” Rear Admiral John Newton said on Saturday.

Hugh Williamson, an adjunct professor at Dalhousie University and naval intelligence expert, says it’s alarming that the personal service records of members could be accessed that easily.

“The government have protocols in place that are supposed to prevent this kind of thing but sometimes there are errors,” Williamson said. “It may be a case of someone not following the proper protocols for disposal of the computer.”

Warning for military and public

Williamson says in this case, it appears the information stored on the hard drive was left there inadvertently. He believes military officials will now likely be looking at whether or not that information should have ever been put on a computer in the first place and what channels it went through when being discarded.

“I think for the military, this is a stand up. But I’d also say for every person out there who uses a computer, it’s also a warning because when you go to the recycling depot you see people throwing away their old computers. Have they wiped all the information off their hard drives, or could someone pick it up and then find their banking information, their family photos, whatever they happened to have on there?”

As for Taylor, he says this is a “horrible breach of security” and one that he didn’t expect to see following the Delisle case.

“The message may be that the message didn’t make it to the top, or if it did, whoever was being told to clean up their act wasn’t paying attention. Moreover, the proper oversight wasn’t in place to make sure the corrections were being made.”

A spokesperson for the military did not agree to an interview Monday but said they will be willing to speak about the subject once the hard drive is completely scrubbed clean and they know exactly what they are dealing with. It’s expected that process could take most of the week.

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