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Attorney General report: Washington State breaks data breach records

Washington State Attorney General's office

This year the Washington Attorney General’s office reported the highest number of data breaches it has ever recorded.

In its sixth annual data breach report the Attorney General’s office found there were nearly 6.4 million individual data exposures this year. That surpassed the state’s 2018 high of 3.5 million exposures.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said some state residents received multiple data breach notices.

“We’ve been doing this study, this analysis for a number of years, and it had been relatively flat, always concerning, but relatively flat,” Ferguson said. “But the number of data breaches has really just skyrocketed this year compared to the last four or five years.”

The Attorney General’s office attributes the increase to several factors, including a potential uptick in cyber crime during the pandemic and increased reporting requirements approved by the Washington state legislature.

The spike was also influenced by the Accellion mega breach. Accellion is a file transferring service used by the Washington State auditor, as well as non-profits and other organizations.

The state defines a mega breach as a breach that impacts more than one million Washington residents.

There have been three mega breaches in the state since the attorney general started tracking the issue in 2016.

In his report Ferguson urged the state legislature to expand the types of data breaches companies are required to disclose to consumers, including individual tax identification numbers and the last four digits of a person’s social security number paired with their name.

Ferguson urged people to make sure their information is secure before they are the victim of a breach.

“If you haven’t had a data breach impacting you personally yet, it’s probably going to happen and it’s probably going to happen soon,” he said.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.
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