09/22/2015 03:21 EDT | Updated 09/24/2015 10:59 EDT

B.C. Student Files Lost In 'Misplaced' Gov't Hard Drive

3.4 milion records dating back to the '80s have been lost.

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VICTORIA — Bureaucrats spent much of the summer rummaging through boxes in a secret Victoria warehouse, searching for a hard drive containing 3.4-million records of British Columbia and Yukon students and teachers.

The hard drive is now officially lost, said Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services Minister Amrik Virk on Tuesday.

He called the loss troubling and announced the province's Chief Information Officer will review the government's management of personal information, adding Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will conduct her own review.

"Any time personal information may be at risk, it is a cause for concern,'' Virk told a news conference.

"I'm troubled to have learned that government is unable to locate an unencrypted-backup hard drive that contains a variety of reports, data and information.''

Virk said the government believes the risk to people is low because the hard drive does not contain social insurance numbers or financial or banking data.

But he said the unencrypted data from 1986 to 2009 includes potentially sensitive information about children in care, teacher retirements and graduation dates for cancer survivors.

It also contains decades' worth of names, grades, postal codes and personal education numbers, he said.

The Ministry of Education discovered the drive was lost while reviewing records to ensure compliance with data-storage standards.

Opposition New Democrat education critic Rob Fleming said British Columbians need more answers from the government about how the information disappeared.

"Now we have disturbing details that at an unsecured location, in an unsecured server, 3.5-million files are now potentially in the hands of someone who could use it,'' he said.

Virk said residents can call Service BC to find out if their information was on the drive.

Jim Iker, president of the BC Teachers' Federation, said the data breach impacts students, parents and teachers.

"This is such a serious breach of security,'' he said in Victoria. "Government must continue working overtime to find this missing hard drive.''

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