Hardware stolen during break-in at Vancouver sexual violence support centre

A cybersecurity expert is raising concerns after a break-in at a centre in Vancouver that provides support to sexual assault victims.

Police in Vancouver confirm to CityNews that they’re investigating the Dec. 3 break-in at Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre, during which hardware, including a back-up server, was stolen.

The break-in took place at 3:30 a.m. at the centre’s new office site, which is under construction, according to a statement by Salal.

Hadis Karimipour, a Canada Research Chair in cybersecurity, says phone numbers, addresses, names and any other unencrypted information that was stored on the equipment could be very sensitive.

“For many people, the fact that they are clients of this centre is private information,” Karimipour said.

Karimipour notes that many of Salal’s clients are likely already in a vulnerable position.

She says to prevent a situation like this in the future, organizations need to either ensure the physical security of devices and servers, or make sure that any data they’re storing is encrypted.

So far, Salal says it’s cooperating with police in their investigation and the theft does not appear to have been targeted.

“We immediately completed a full privacy assessment for us to understand the risks to privacy for those directly impacted,” the centre stated.

“We have also been working with IT experts who informed us that moderate to high knowledge and IT skills of how to route the information and find it in the drive would be required to access any information held on the drive.”

So far, Salal says it appears the theft was an attempt to steal hardware, not data.

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