Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong gave a news conference on Monday, Jan. 28, during which he announced that confidential data about more than 14,000 HIV-positive people — both Singaporean citizens and foreign visitors — had been stolen and leaked online. Authorities believe a single person, an American man named Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, is behind the Singapore HIV data breach.
The leak involves the details of 5,400 Singaporeans and 8,800 foreigners.
The breach actually dates back to 2016, as Singapore has known since then that Farrera-Brochez had access to the confidential data — which includes people’s names, addresses, HIV status and other medical info — but authorities believed it had all been seized and secured by police.
Farrera-Brochez was deported from Singapore in 2018 after serving a jail term for fraud and a drug-related offense.
It’s believed the 33-year-old behind this Singapore HIV data breach still has possession of the HIV registry data, which he originally gained access to through his partner, Ler Teck Siang, former head of Singapore’s National Public Health Unit. Ler was himself convicted of helping Farrera-Brochez disguise his HIV status so he could reside in Singapore. It’s believed Ler passed off his own blood as that of Farrera-Brochez.
Under Singapore law, until 2015 anyone who was HIV-positive was not allowed to even visit the city-state. Now anyone looking to stay in Singapore for more than 90 days is subject to a mandatory medical screening, and anyone with HIV does not pass.
During the Jan. 28 press conference, the Health Minister said, “I’m sorry that one of our former staff who was authorized to have access to confidential information in our HIV registry [Ler] appears to not have complied with our security guidelines.”
According to health officials, they’ve attempted to contact all 14,000+ people on the list but as of Jan. 28 had only spoken with 900 of them. The Health Department has reportedly set up a hotline for those affected who are in need of counseling.
The whereabouts of Farrera-Brochez are currently unknown.