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Department to Provide Credit Protection for Clients With Information on Missing Hard Drive

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 01/25/13 -- The Department of Human Resources and Skills Development (HRSDC) is responding to the concerns of Canadians and providing credit protection at no cost to Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) clients whose personal information was contained in a missing hard drive.

In addition to the strong measures that the Minister recently directed the Department to implement, the Department has contracted with Equifax, a credit bureau, to provide the affected clients with credit and identity protection services for a period of up to six years.

"While there is no evidence that information has been fraudulently accessed or used, I want to reassure Canadians that we are serious about protecting their personal information," said Minister Finley. "That is why we will provide potentially affected individuals with credit protection at no cost, which will flag their credit files and help detect any potential compromise of their personal information."

While HRSDC has no evidence that any of the information has been accessed or used for fraudulent purposes, those clients who could potentially have been affected by this incident have the choice to request the credit protection services, and can contact the HRSDC call centre at 1-866-885-1866 within North America. For calls from outside of North America, affected citizens can call 1-416-572-1113 and dial 0 to speak to an operator in order to reverse the charges. Callers with a hearing or speech impairment and who use a teletypewriter (TTY) can call at 1-800-263-5883.

To protect privacy, the Department is asking that affected individuals call to provide their consent for their information to be shared with Equifax. The process will be simple and efficient.

A hard drive containing personal information on approximately 583,000 individuals who were Canada Student Loans clients from 2000-2006 has been deemed missing from an HSRDC office in Gatineau, Quebec, although the search is ongoing.

Credit protection services will be arranged once clients make contact with the HRSDC call centre.

HRSDC continues to take all efforts to reassure Canadians that rigorous new protocols are in place to protect their data.

This news release is available in alternative formats on request.

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BACKGROUNDER

Services to be provided to affected Canadians by Equifax Canada

Equifax is a respected, global leader in credit management, and has the tools to help protect Canadians' credit files and help detect any potential compromise of their personal information. This company will be offering credit and identity protection services to potentially affected clients for a period of up to six years.

More specifically:

--  Equifax Canada will protect credit files with notations that information
    may have been exposed and alert messages will be placed on credit files.
    This notation will assist in preventing any misuse of personal
    information. The notation will stay on credit files for a period of six
    years unless clients choose to have it removed. This flag will alert
    credit grantors that data may have been compromised, and lenders will
    then take further steps to verify the person's identity before granting
    credit. 

Why contracting with Equifax credit bureau?

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada contracted the services of this credit bureau so that credit and identity protection services could be offered to affected clients.

At this time, HRSDC has no evidence that any of the information on the hard drive has been accessed or used for fraudulent purposes.

Who will benefit from these credit protection services?

This credit and identity protection will be made available to the approximately 583,000 Canadians whose information was on a missing HRSDC hard drive containing information on Canada Student Loans clients.

How to register to receive these credit protection services

The Department is providing guidance on how to begin receiving the credit protection services from Equifax and has posted information on its website - http://www.canlearn.ca/eng/main/spotlighton/privacy/index.shtml. HRSDC is seeking the consent of those potentially affected prior to providing their personal information to Equifax for the purposes of providing credit protection to affected clients.

Those wishing to receive this credit protection first need to provide their consent by calling the HRSDC toll free number at 1-866-885-1866 within North America. For calls from outside of North America, affected citizens can call 1-416-572-1113 and dial 0 to speak to an operator in order to reverse the charges. Callers with a hearing or speech impairment and who use a teletypewriter (TTY) can call at 1-800-263-5883.

No negative impacts on affected Canadians' credit ratings

Having a notation added to a credit file will not have a negative impact on clients' credit ratings.

Cost to affected Canadians

These credit and identity protection services will be made available for free to all Canadians potentially affected by the missing HRSDC hard drive.

What else is HRSDC doing about this situation?

The Minister has directed that the overall policy for security and storage of personal information at HRSDC be strengthened and improved. The highlights are:

--  New, stricter protocols have been implemented. Portable hard drives are
    no longer permitted. Unapproved USB keys are not to be connected to the
    network; 
    
--  Immediate risk assessments of all portable security devices used in the
    Department's work environment to ensure that appropriate safeguards are
    in place; these assessments will continue on a regular, ongoing basis; 
    
--  Mandatory training for all employees regarding the proper handling of
    sensitive information, including personal information; 
    
--  Implementation of new data loss prevention technology, which can be
    configured to control or prevent the transfer of sensitive information; 
    
--  Disciplinary measures implemented for staff, up to and including
    termination, should the strict codes of privacy and security not be
    followed. 
    

In addition, HRSDC has initiated a number of other concrete measures in response:

--  SIN records on the Social Insurance Register have been annotated to
    indicate the SIN was involved in an incident of loss. The department
    will notify individuals for whom we have current contact information if
    there are any attempts to request changes to information on SIN records
    or to obtain a SIN card. The Government does not charge fees for
    monitoring Social Insurance Numbers. 
    
--  The matter has been referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)
    by the Office of the Minister. 
    
--  The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has also been informed of the
    incident. 
    
--  The Department is currently investigating the missing hard drive, and
    search efforts continue.  
    

At this time, HRSDC has no evidence that any of the information on the hard drive has been accessed or used for fraudulent purposes.

All details on this incident and how Canadians can protect their personal information are available at http://www.canlearn.ca/eng/main/spotlighton/privacy/adi.shtml

Contacts:
Alyson Queen
Director of Communications
Office of Minister Finley
819-994-2482

Media Relations Office
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
819-994-5559

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