Authorities in Singapore have confirmed the leak of confidential data pertaining to over 14,000 people living with HIV living in or having visited the country.
The breach encompasses data up to 2013 and includes HIV status, names and addresses, as well as other medical information pertaining to those involved, according to the BBC.
Officials say that they suspect 33 year old US national Mikhy Farrera-Brochez is behind the leak.
Farrera-Brochez lived in Singapore from 2008, and was at one point the partner of Ler Teck Siang, who was convicted over the falsification of Farrera-Brochez’s medical documents to disguise his HIV status.
Farrera-Brochez was convicted of fraud in 2016 and deported from Singapore in 2018.
The breach poses an extreme privacy risk given the extreme restrictions of the passage of HIV-positive people into Singapore, as well as significant social stigma around being HIV-positive.
One victim of the leak told The Straits Times, “There is still a great stigma against people who have HIV. Information that I have HIV is definitely not something I want online.”
Singaporean advocacy group Action for AIDS (AFA) said they are deeply troubled by the leak, and said that it poses a significant risk to people’s livelihoods and relationships.
“We stand with all whose private information may have been accessed and violated,” AFA president Roy Chan said. “This is a criminal act that should be condemned and answered in the most severe terms possible.
“We understand that this is a trying time for the many who are affected by this breach, and we would like to express our solidarity as a community that have been affected by HIV.”
Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that the leak includes data of nearly 2,000 Singapore residents who have already died.
Authorities first became aware of the data breach in 2016, but it was not until January 22 that they became aware that information still in Farrera-Brochez’s possession has leaked online.
Channel News Asia has now reported that Farrera-Brochez is a serial conman, having been found in the possession of multiple forged university degrees and a fake passport. He reportedly faked his way into teaching jobs as well as speaking engagements at conferences.
He was traced back to a small county in Kentucky, where he was arrested in December last year for trespassing on his mother’s property.
The Singaporean government’s investigation into the breach is ongoing.