Montreal

3 men arrested in connection with data hack involving 360,000 Quebec teachers

The suspects are each facing charges of fraud, identity theft, possession of counterfeit documents, unauthorized use of credit card data, and unauthorized use of a computer.

Personal information in a government database was accessed in 2018 using a stolen password

Quebec's provincial police have arrested three people and charged them with fraud and identity theft in connection with a 2018 data breach. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The Sûreté du Québec have arrested three Montreal men in connection with a data breach that affected thousands of teachers across the province.

Frédéric Lapointe, 41, Rath Pak, 41, and Jimmy Saintelien, 39, are each facing charges of fraud, identity theft, possession of counterfeit documents, unauthorized use of credit card data, and unauthorized use of a computer.

The provincial Treasury Board announced on Feb. 19 of this year that hackers had accessed the personal records of as many as 360,000 active and retired teachers.

The data was contained in a provincial government database, which appears to have been accessed using a stolen user ID and password.

The trio's alleged crimes date to the spring of 2018, and occurred "in several regions of Quebec," provincial police said in a statement.

The investigation was carried out jointly by the SQ's financial crimes unit and the Quebec Education Ministry.

Julie Deslauriers, a kindergarten teacher in Montreal, was one of thousands who received a notice from the government last summer indicating her personal data may have been stolen.

"I'm more prudent now than I was, more careful about everything," she told CBC News. "I change my passwords more often."

Deslaurier said it's a relief that arrests have been made, but said she hopes police have tracked down everyone involved.

A union representing 7,500 English-language teachers in Quebec said the incident will leave a lasting impression.

"You end up having mistrust with the government," said Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers. "You would suspect that your data would be in good hands, and that's not the case."

The hard feelings have been exacerbated by the fact that delivery of the notices warning teachers of potential identity theft were delayed by as long as five months.

The government has attributed the delays to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province is paying for five years' worth of credit protection for the teachers whose data may have been accessed.

with files from Matt D'Amours

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