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12,000 New Zealanders Affected by COVID Data Breach

Barry Young, a former health worker, has been charged with dishonestly accessing databases in connection with a data breach. The breach resulted in the personal details of 12,000 New Zealanders being leaked on an American website. The breach occurred at Te Whatu Ora, the government department responsible for delivering health services.

An investigation began in December after it was discovered that 56-year-old health worker Barry Young, also known as Winston Smith, had accessed and used the data to spread vaccine misinformation. He was fired, arrested, and charged with unauthorized disclosure and misuse of data. He awaits trial and faces a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

He claims to have developed a database for the vaccine rollout and quoted data from that work. The alleged misinformation relates to the number of vaccine-related deaths. Authorities state that in New Zealand, there have been only four deaths linked to the COVID-19 vaccination since its introduction.

Initially Thought to Affect a ‘Small Number’

After the breach came to light, Te Whatu Ora initially reported that “a small number of people” might have been affected, but it appears this was severely underestimated.

An injunction from the Employment Relations Authority prohibits the publication of the data, and Te Whatu Ora had already used it to have information removed from an overseas website.

Upon learning of the latest breach on a blog site in the United States, Te Whatu Ora requested the information to be removed, and it was eventually taken down. The site had allowed people to download the details as a single file, including details of “a large number” of COVID-19 vaccinators, according to Te Whatu Ora.

Margie Apa, the organization’s chief executive, said they would start contacting people whose personal information had been disclosed. They hope to have notified more than half of those affected by the end of the coming weekend.

Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) CEO Margie Apa. (Courtesy Te Whatu Ora)
Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) CEO Margie Apa. (Courtesy Te Whatu Ora)

Vaccinators and Vaccinated Are On The List

“There is also a small group of vaccinated people who, through the use of considerable effort and technical expertise, could potentially be identified within information earlier made publicly available,” Ms. Apa confirmed.

“We deeply regret what happened and apologize sincerely to those affected. We are making information, advice, and support available to individuals being notified.”

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This would require individually locating and notifying each person, which will take time to accomplish, she said.

Ms. Apa described the situation as “highly complex,” and the investigation is ongoing.

“We are working with local and international cybersecurity experts to help monitor for signs of the data being disclosed online,” she said.

She reiterated that Mr. Young “has no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge” and appeared to be “trying to spread misinformation.”

“What this individual is trying to claim about vaccines is completely wrong and ill-informed, as their comments demonstrate.

“We assure people there is no evidence whatsoever that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand.”

Mr. Young’s LinkedIn page describes him as a senior database administrator.

Te Whatu Ora’s cybersecurity team will continue scanning for any other places where the information appears.

Te Whatu Ora said it is working closely with other agencies, including the National Cyber Security Centre, the Police, the Department of Internal Affairs, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

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