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Millions In Washington Affected By Data Breaches


If the recent Equifax data breach has you thinking it’s getting harder to protect your personal data, the Washington State Attorney General says you’re right. 

Almost three million Washingtonians were plagued with compromised data in a one-year period. That’s six times the number of consumers affected compared to the previous year, according to a report that tracks data breaches over a yearlong period, from July 2016 through this past July. 

The number of breaches doubled over the last year. Most of those were caused by malicious cyberattacks that threaten personal and financial security. 

“The majority of these data breaches come from intentional entities trying to maliciously go in and get information from companies  as opposed to an accidental release of information. So that is the world we live in now, where entities go in and try and get this personal information and use it to profit,” said Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General.

But the problem is more pervasive than that. Washington’s law only requires requires businesses and governments notify the attorney general’s office after 500 or more people have been affected. That’s why Ferguson says consumers should take any indication of a breach seriously.

“Number one, they should be vigilant with the information they have, number two, if they notice that a business has had a data breach, they should get information about what was compromised, and there are programs you can do to protect that data. Maybe you have to cancel a credit card. It’s a pain in the butt to do it, but it’s necessary to protect your identification when these things happen,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson adds it’s not just businesses that need to stay on top of their customers’ personal information. During 2017, breaches of government data resulted in the greatest number of records compromised. That happened when people went online to apply for hunting and fishing licenses through an application hosted by a government contractor.