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Data Breach in Washington Could Expose Thousands to ID Theft

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The number of data breaches suffered every year seems to be rising all the time, and this can affect millions of people nationwide every year. Unfortunately, such an incident recently impacted the state government in Washington.

The Washington state Administrative Office of the Courts recently revealed that it had been hacked at some point between the final few months of 2012 and February 2013, resulting in the potential loss of as many as 160,000 Social Security numbers and more than a million driver’s license numbers. The hackers were able to obtain this information through the agency’s public website, exploiting a security vulnerability in the ColdFusion software issued by Adobe.

In all, only 94 stolen Social Security numbers have been confirmed as being stolen at this point, and court officials don’t think that all of the 160,000 potentially-breached SSNs were exposed. Nonetheless, they are notifying potential victims that they could have been hit as well. The case is being investigated by law enforcement officials and no information was made available as to who might have been at fault in the mistakes that led to the incident.

Among those whose names and Social Security numbers might have been affected by the attack were those who were booked into county or city jails between September 2011 and December 2012, and people who had their driver’s license numbers and names exposed received DUI citations in the state between 1989 and 2011, the Associated Press reports. The latter group also included those who had traffic cases resolved in either district or municipal courts, or who had criminal cases filed against them in superior court, from 2011 to 2012.

In the wake of the breach, the state put into place a number of added security measures, including more coding that better protects sensitive data, and more encryption for that information, the report said. It also warns that those who were affected might be targeted for phishing scams.

Data breaches can expose consumers in a large number of ways, as criminals can use the information gleaned from them to open new accounts in consumers’ names, often without their knowing about it, or accessing existing accounts and either draining the funds from them or significantly adding to their debt loads.

Image: iStockphoto

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