Police likely to have 'more to say' in teen's alleged breach of N.S. website

Police likely to have 'more to say' in teen's alleged breach of N.S. website

Halifax police say they will likely have "more to say" about a case involving a 19-year-old man who has denied he had malicious intent when he downloaded files from a government website.

Last Wednesday, Supt. Jim Perrin said the young man was arrested during a search and given a notice to appear in court on June 12, with police intending to lay criminal charges of unauthorized use of a computer.

Police alleged the teenager was involved in a "data breach" of the government's freedom of information portal.

In a news conference Wednesday, Perrin said police have yet to provide a sworn information to provincial court and also said, "when the investigation is concluded we'll probably have more to say about it."

"We're not finished collecting the evidence in this particular case," he said on Wednesday.

Last week, Perrin had said that his investigators would "forensically examine" computers and software that were seized in the April 11 search of the Halifax residence where the 19-year-old and his family live.

Since the search, the young man and his family have told the CBC he thought he was accessing public files from the freedom-of-information portal, and had no intent to take personal information. The teenager told the broadcaster he was looking for information from public documents about a teachers' labour dispute last year.

He said he wrote a few simple lines of code to download files, rather than transferring them one by one.

Experts on cyber law have said if the teenager's account is correct, the arrests and the family's allegations that 15 officers descended on their home and left it in disarray may be a case of police "overreach," when the real issue is a lack of basic security on the site for private files.

Perrin said police don't intend to enter an argument over the quality or merits of their investigation.

"The police aren't going to get into a public dispute over what a suspect in an incident has to say. Obviously there has been a lot of opinion on social media and other news sources," he said.

Perrin was asked whether it was correct, as the family has said, that 15 officers were involved in the search, and whether police had first done research to determine they were raiding a family residence.

"We wouldn't confirm our deployment numbers," he said.

"What I can tell you is that every search we do, there is risk analysis done around that. That could be for scene security, transporting of suspects, physical searches, subject matter experts with respect to digital evidence."

"There are a number of officers that have to go to any search."

The superintendent has already stated that it's rare for police to make an arrest under section 341.1 of the criminal code, which prohibits unauthorized uses of computers "with intent to commit an offence."

"It may be the first time that we've investigated an offence that met this particular section. Cyber crime is not new but ... we haven't had a lot of similar type investigations."

Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor who specializes in internet law, had said Tuesday that if the young man's account is accurate, it appears the province set up a website with private information that could be accessed by people with basic computer skills.

He said if the 19-year-old's account is correct, police may have overreacted in setting a court date before first conducting further analysis of what occurred.

David Fraser, a Halifax privacy lawyer, had said if the youth wrote a few lines of computer code to collect materials on a publicly accessible government website that's unlikely to suggest criminal intent, as this is done commonly by people ranging from journalists to archivists.

About 700 people were affected by the breach of the 7,000 documents accessed between March 3 and March 5, according to the province. Many of the documents are files they've applied for under freedom-of-information requests.

The province's minister of Internal Services, Patricia Arab, told reporters Tuesday that about 250 contained sensitive personal information such as birth dates, social insurance numbers, addresses and government services' client information.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press