Hong Kong: Students’ privacy exposed by webmasters’ negligence

chinadaily.com.cn informs that names, phone numbers and email addresses of over 8,505 students of nine secondary schools and two tertiary institutions in the city were shown to have been exposed in documents retrievable by Internet search engines, the privacy watchdog reported on Tuesday.

Allan Chiang Yam-wang, privacy commissioner for personal data, said he believes the lack of vigilance and security measures to protect personal data revealed in the probe was only a “tip of the iceberg” of the widespread negligence among webmasters.

The compliance checks commenced in April, following media reports of leaks by the city’sschools. Nine secondary schools were confirmed to have uploaded files containing personaldata onto their web sites without access restrictions, involving a total of 2,115 students.

Two of the schools had leaked 786 students’ reference numbers (STRN), which were uniquelyassigned to each student for life. The Commissioner compared the sensitivity of the numbers tobirth certificates, as publishing the STRN would expose students to the risk of counterfeitidentities.

Three schools have also leaked both the email addresses and contact numbers of students ortheir parents in their files. The commissioner noticed some of the misplaced files had beenavailable for years.

All nine schools blamed their technicians for mistakenly publishing the files on their officialwebsites. The files in question, following the finding, were all removed and requires no furtheraction from the commissioner.

The investigators looked up the search engines to explore how far the oversight of webmastershad gone. The search keywords were said to be “simple”, but the office declined to reveal whatthey were.

A search over a period of 20 hours retrieved 39 files containing sensitive information, includingclass allocation results of 6,256 students attending the Lingnan Institute of Further Education.The record revealed part of the students’ identification card numbers and their names.

The institute also came under scrutiny last week when an inquiry panel criticized themanagement for problems in student enrollment, governance, quality assurance and otheraspects of the operations.

Read the whole story HERE.

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