Hong Kong election laptop theft may have been ‘inside job’

Detectives not ruling out possibility of insider’s involvement as machines containing personal details of 3.7 million city voters were kept in secure room

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 10:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 11:40pm

Detectives suspect the theft of two laptop computers which contained the personal details of 3.7 million Hong Kong voters may have been an inside job, as the machines were behind a locked door which required a passcode and access card.

The two computers, which also stored the names of the 1,194 electors on the Election Committee who picked Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as Hong Kong’s new chief executive on Sunday, were stolen from the storeroom in Hall 7 in AsiaWorld-Expo on Lantau, which was used by the Registration and Electoral Office as its backup venue for the election.

Laptops containing 3.7 million Hong Kong voters’ data stolen after chief executive election

According to a force insider, the computers were left in the storeroom since Wednesday last week and the devices were still there when checked on Friday evening.

As staff from the Registration and Electoral Office returned to the Lantau venue on Monday morning, the two laptops were missing but the two bags used to store the computers were left ­behind.

An initial check shows there was no sign of a breaking-in
police source

Detectives from the New Territories South regional crime unit launched an investigation after the office made a report to police on Monday afternoon.

“An initial check shows there was no sign of a breaking-in,” another source said.

As the storeroom was locked and the door’s access card and passcode were needed to unlock it, he said: “We do not rule out the possibility that it was an inside job.”

He said officers would interview those who had the access to the room and knew the digital lock’s passcode. It is understood they include employees from the office and AsiaWorld-Expo.

“Officers are still poring over security camera footage in an effort to identify any suspect,” he said.

Another source said the two computers were not expensive and it was unknown why the devices were targeted. “It’s quite mysterious,” he said.

Hong Kong’s data privacy pioneer lowers his guard

On Tuesday, a team of plainclothes officers returned to AsiaWorld-Expo to collect evidence. So far, no one has been arrested.

While the committee members’ full names are publicly available, the personal data of Hong Kong’s voters could include their ID card numbers, addresses and mobile phone numbers.

In a statement, the office said there had so far been no information to indicate that the relevant data had been “leaked”. It also stressed the data had been encrypted.

The office said it would fully assist the police investigation.

It added it would review the arrangements in handling voters’ information during the chief executive election and submit report to Electoral Affairs Commission and Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. The office apologised to the voters for the incident.