In Sight of Critical Data Loss, HRSDC Issues Stricter Instructions for Use of USB Keys

The federal department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, which recently faced extraordinary criticism due to a potentially risky loss of personal information of almost 600,000 Canadians late last year, has implemented a new instruction still allowing the use of mobile data devices, for example portable drives and USB keys, but only in extremely unavoidable cases.

These new instructions were drafted over a period of seven days and decided to be implemented only a day before the announcement regarding its scandalous loss of a portable hard drive enclosing extremely personal information of 583,000 Canada Student Loan recipients.  The new instructions only allow usage of devices that aren’t encrypted or password protected, which are required by Treasury Board guidelines, though employees are now compelled to obtain clearance before using them. These new instructions were passed along with a complete summoning of  all USB keys within the department and allowing senior managers the authority of confiscating personal drives of employees used for storing sensitive departmental information.

In addition, all the USB keys allowed in the departmental are now accompanied with a biometric encryption or are encrypted and password protected. It was stated that these devices now have an “attached coloured tag,” giving it a dedicated service desk phone number for making it “less likely to be forgotten or misplaced,” while also making it easier to call the department and return it, in case the device is lost and found. A circular distributed among supervisor highlights that “in the past few months, there were very serious incidents that led to the decision to prohibit portable USB storage devices.”

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