A member of the opposition in Alberta under RCMP investigation after hacking into a public health website using some of Premier Jason Kenney’s personal information says he felt a professional responsibility to do so.
Thomas Dang, who was asked by reporters on Tuesday if he admits to having done something wrong, replied: “No.”
“I think this type of test is common in information and cybersecurity,” Dang said. “My intention was always, and continues to be, to protect Albertan’s private information.
“I think this was a commitment I had as an MLA.”
Dang, a member of Edmonton-South, declined to say whether he would commit the same cybercrime again if he felt the public interest demanded it.
He made the comments after publishing a report entitled “How I Did It”, which describes his role last autumn in committing the cybercrime on the government’s website for confirming COVID-19 vaccination passports. His report urges the United Conservative government to do more to protect sensitive online information.
Dang said he conducted the investigation after a voter warned him of possible loopholes that allow bad actors to access private health information via the vaccine website.
At that point, Dang said, he immediately stopped the search, advised his NDP caucus team, which in turn advised the government on the security breach, and the breach was remedied shortly after.
Dang said the use of Kenney’s details was a reasonable decision to make under the circumstances, as the premiere has a high profile and may be a target for hacking. He rejected suggestions that he was involved in some form of identity theft.
“I did not use someone else’s identity,” Dang said. “I used two pieces of information that are publicly available.”
Dang said he has a certificate in cyber security, but he did not say whether he had any special authority or permission to break the vaccination passport website.
In December, the RCMP launched an investigation and conducted a search for Dang’s cyber search. Under NDP policies, Dang stepped away from the caucus because of the ongoing investigation and now sits as an independent.
Government House Speaker Jason Nixon said he wanted answers as to who knew what and when after Dang’s security breach, and whether NDP leader Rachel Notley or other senior party officials withheld or delayed the delivery of sensitive information.
“What has been admitted by MLA Dang today was that a daily Albertan record was violated by the then NDP ethical critic through hacking, which is unacceptable,” Nixon said.
Notley said she asked Dang to step aside as soon as she heard about the investigation, and that future decisions on Dang’s role in the caucus will wait until after the RCMP investigation.
“Mr Dang will have to answer for himself in relation to the choices he has made,” Notley said.
“But I can say that it is deeply disappointing to me that it has attracted the attention of the police that it is under investigation. That’s why we asked him to leave, and he will not come back under any circumstances as long as this is an active matter. “
Dang, a two-term legislator, would not confirm whether he will run for re-election in the spring of 2023 under the NDP banner or as an independent.
NDP nominations are being contested and filled out right now, and Notley was asked what will be done by Dang as a potential NDP candidate for Edmonton-South.
“We will meet with the party leader to make that decision pretty soon,” she said.
Later Tuesday, Dang’s predicament became fodder for party attacks during the question period in the Legislative Assembly.
Kenney, who answered Notley’s questions about emergency aid to Albertans facing high inflation rates, urged his opponents to examine government policies. But he added: “I know the NDP’s preferred research technique is to hack into people’s private information.”
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