ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Human Resources Skills Development Canada says just over 18,000 people living in Newfoundland and Labrador are part of a massive security breach involving Canada Student Loans.

An external hard drive containing personal information, including the names, Social Insurance Numbers, birthdates and addresses of up to 583,000 students who applied for student loans between 2000 and 2006, disappeared.

St. John's lawyer Bob Buckingham has launched a Canada-wide class action lawsuit for people affected by the breach.

He has set up an application process through his website and says the next issue will be to decide where they're going to file the class action.

The provincial Office of the Privacy Commissioner says people who were affected should notify their bank and a credit reporting agency.