HomeBudget & Tax NewsWashington Auditor Reports Data Breach Put 1.6 Million People's Personal Info at...

Washington Auditor Reports Data Breach Put 1.6 Million People’s Personal Info at Risk

By Tim Gruver

As many as 1.6 million jobless Washingtonians may have had their information exposed in a data breach at the state auditor’s office as far back as last Christmas.

Washington State Auditor Pat McCarthy announced the news on Monday, saying her office had alerted state Attorney General Bob Ferguson of the incident, which she said her office became aware of on January 12.

McCarthy explained in her statement from Monday why she had not made the discovery public for 21 days.

“I know this is one more worry for Washingtonians who have already faced unemployment in a year scarred by both job loss and a pandemic,” McCarthy said in a statement. “I am sorry to share this news and add to their burdens. This is completely unacceptable. We are frustrated and committed to doing everything we can to mitigate the harm caused by this crime.”

According to McCarthy’s statement, the incident occurred during a data file transfer via a third-party service provider, Accellion, which is commonly used by the state auditor’s office.

Jobless claims potentially affected were filed between January 1 to December 10, 2020. They include state employees and people whose identity was used to file phony claims in the spring of 2020, which were being reviewed as part of an audit, McCarthy said.

The data includes names, social security numbers, bank information, workplace addresses, driver’s licenses, and state identification numbers.

Personal information held by the Department of Children, Youth and Families may also be at stake.

The incident comes less than a year after cyber criminals stole $600 million in phony jobless claims from the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) last spring. Months later, a letter first obtained by the Seattle Times revealed ESD boss Suzi Levine complained about McCarthy’s subsequent audit of the department.

McCarthy noted on Monday that the data breach of the state auditor’s office is unrelated to the ESD incident.

bill sponsored by state Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, would cover much of the $600 million in missing funds and bolster the state’s Employment Trust Fund.

Levine, a former ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, was nominated to her post by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2018.

A deputy national finance chair for the Democratic National Committee, Levine has been selected by President Joe Biden to lead the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, according to a Bloomberg Law report.

McCarthy announced she will consider using other “tools and protocols” for sharing data files going forward.

Anyone affected by the data breach will be contacted by the state auditor’s office as soon as possible, McCarthy said Monday.


Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.


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