State employee published watercraft owners’ social security numbers

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A state employee at the Department of Innovation and Technology — the agency tasked with securing state data — inadvertently published the names, gender, birthdates, and social security numbers of some watercraft owners to the internet, an agency spokesperson confirmed on Monday.

The Department of Natural Resources collects registration information from people who own boats, jet skis, and other watercraft to provide licenses. State law requires new watercraft license applicants to submit their social security number so the state can ensure they are in compliance with any outstanding child support obligations. DoIT, the state’s IT department, manages and maintains their database.

The data was published to the Illinois Open Data Portal, which is open to the public, between April 4th and April 8th and again from April 29th through May 1st, 2019. It has since been removed, and the agency has changed its policies to prevent it from happening again.

“The State has reviewed its policies, procedures and requirements on how data is published to the Open Data Portal and taken corrective action,” DoIT spokeswoman Jennifer Schultz said in an email. “The State immediately stopped posting information to the Open Data Portal that requires a manual extraction to ensure that human error does not occur.”

A DoIT spokesperson said the exposed data impacted between 16,000 and 17,000 people, which comprises merely a fraction of the roughly 400,000 registered boats in Illinois.

The state’s cyber department notified major credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion about the privacy lapse, and sent letters in the mail to people impacted, instructing them to review their credit report for any suspicious or fraudulent activity. The letter urged the watercraft owners to immediately change usernames, passwords, and security questions to protect any online account information.

In a statement, IDOT offered the following tips and hotline contact information for anyone impacted:

For additional information on identity theft and steps that can be taken to prevent it, consumers should contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338) or the Illinois Attorney General Theft Hotline at http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov or 866-999-5630.

Jennifer Schultz, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology

This story has been updated to include the number of registered watercraft owners impacted by the incident.

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