WA Investigates Data Breach At Department Of Licensing

OLYMPIA, WA — The state Department of Licensing is investigating the breach of one of its internal databases, which may have exposed personal information on file for professional and business licenses.

In a notice posted Friday, state officials said they discovered “suspicious activity involving professional and occupational license data” stored on its POLARIS system during the last week of January. The department contacted the state’s cybersecurity office immediately shut down the database while the investigation continued.

The system in question holds sensitive information, including social security numbers and dates of birth, for license holders and applicants working across 39 professions, including real estate brokers, cosmetologists, architects and others, the department said.

According to state officials, investigators have yet to determine how many people were impacted by the breach, or to what degree private information may have been accessed. The Department of Licensing said it did not appear the breach affected its other systems, including the DRIVES database, which stores personal information related to driver’s licenses.

The POLARIS database remains offline, and business owners and professionals who need to renew their licenses can fill out an “intent to renew” form online. The state said no fines or other penalties would be levied against professional license holders whose renewals are impacted by the outage. Drive and vehicle licensing operations are running normally, officials said.

While the state is still working to learn the scope of the breach, officials said anyone whose information was compromised will be notified by the Department of Licensing. The department also shared a list of “proactive steps” license holders can take to protect against fraud:

  • Remain vigilant – We encourage you to remain vigilant by reviewing your account statements and free credit reports.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file – Credit bureaus have tools you can use to protect your credit, including fraud alerts and security freezes.
  • Report suspicious activity – If you believe you are the victim of fraud or identity theft, file a police report and get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of a crime to clear up your records. The report may also provide you with access to services that are free to identity theft victims.

Officials also activated a call center on Friday to answer questions about the breach, which will be open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. seven days a week. Residents can reach them at 855-568-2052.

Source: Bellevue Patch