Breach teen is free!

Halifax police have no grounds to lay charges against the 19-year-old railroaded by the province for its lacklustre FOI site security.

An excellent use of everyone's time! - THE COAST
The Coast
An excellent use of everyone's time!

The teenager who helped expose Nova Scotia's embarrassing cybersecurity fail is a free man.

Halifax Regional Police have concluded an investigation into the data breach of the province's Freedom of Information web portal and have determined there are no grounds to lay charges.

“This was a high-profile case that potentially impacted many Nova Scotians,” CID superintendent Jim Perrin says in a press release. “As the investigation evolved, we have determined that the 19-year-old who was arrested on April 11 did not have intent to commit a criminal offence by accessing the information.”

The “breach” of the province's online security involved sensitive private material left on publicly accessible URLs next to—and indistinguishable from—other information cleared for public release.

The 19-year-old used a simple web scraper to download thousands of documents he assumed were publicly viewable as part of research he was undertaking.

Once the province stumbled across what had happened a month later the police were dispatched, leading to 15 officers swarming the teenager's family home, detaining his little sister and confiscating his and his parents' electronics.

The young man was facing a charge of “unauthorized use of a computer.” It now appears that charge has been dropped.

The outcome isn't unexpected given the province has faced harsh criticism from political opponents, digital rights advocates and the general public for what appeared to be scapegoating efforts against a teenager to cover the government's own ineptitude. 

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia's privacy commissioner and auditor general are both still working on parallel investigations into the FOI leak.

Last week, the province announced the data leak was more substantial than initial reports, with 11 additional IP addresses having been forwarded to Halifax Regional Police to investigate.

The FOI website remains offline as of this week, as IT staff along with contractor Unisys try to secure their system.

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