Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

Texas Data Breach Exposed 3.5 Million Records

Names, addresses, and social security numbers of state retirees and unemployment beneficiaries were posted, unencrypted, on a public server.

10 Massive Security Breaches
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 10 Massive Security Breaches
The Texas comptroller's office began notifying millions of people Monday that their personal data had been involved in a data breach. The private data was posted to a public server, where it was available--in some cases--for over a year.

"I deeply regret the exposure of the personal information that occurred and am angry that it happened," Texas comptroller Susan Combs said in a statement. "I want to reassure people that the information was sealed off from any public access immediately after the mistake was discovered and was then moved to a secure location. We take information security very seriously and this type of exposure will not happen again."

The state's attorney general and the FBI have launched a criminal investigation into the data breach. A state spokesperson told The Dallas Morning News that an unspecified number of people were fired after the breach was discovered on March 31, 2011.

The 3.5 million breached records include 1.2 million records, posted in January 2010, of education employees and retirees from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. In addition, 2 million records from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), which provides unemployment benefits to Texas residents, were posted in April 2010. Finally, 281,000 records from the Employees Retirement System of Texas, involving state employees and retirees, were posted in May 2010.

According to the comptroller's office, "the information was required to be transferred per statute by these agencies and used internally at the comptroller's office as part of the unclaimed property verification system." It also said that "we have no information at this time that the personal information has been misused in any way."

The posted records included people's names, mailing addresses, social security numbers, and in some cases also dates of birth and driver's license numbers. According to the comptroller's office, none of the data was encrypted, even though Texas administrative rules require agencies to encrypt all data files containing sensitive information. Furthermore, established security policies governing how information gets released were not followed.

The leak of social security numbers is dangerous, as they can be used by identity thieves to open bank accounts, secure lines of credit, and apply for credit cards. Accordingly, most organizations that experience a serious data breach, such as this one, extend free credit monitoring services to affected people to help offset the substantial time typically required to clean up any resulting identity theft. To date, Texas has not said it will offer such services to people affected by the comptroller's breach.

Instead, the state has set up an informational website, dubbed Texas Safeguard. Starting Tuesday, the state also began offering a toll-free number that people can call for more information, or to find out if they will be receiving a data breach notification letter. As of Tuesday, however, a message on the Web page noted that while the call center was equipped to receive 19,000 calls per day, and would be staffed 24 hours per day for the first week, it was "currently receiving high call volumes" and might be unavailable.

Perhaps that's not surprising, since based on the volume of potentially compromised records, the call center can only handle inquiries--on a per-day basis--from 0.5% of the people whose personal details were potentially breached.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
HackerOne Drops Mobile Voting App Vendor Voatz
Dark Reading Staff 3/30/2020
Limited-Time Free Offers to Secure the Enterprise Amid COVID-19
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  3/31/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
Data breaches and regulations have forced organizations to pay closer attention to the security incident response function. However, security leaders may be overestimating their ability to detect and respond to security incidents. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-11529
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
Common/Grav.php in Grav before 1.6.23 has an Open Redirect.
CVE-2020-11527
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
In Zoho ManageEngine OpManager before 12.4.181, an unauthenticated remote attacker can send a specially crafted URI to read arbitrary files.
CVE-2020-11528
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
bit2spr 1992-06-07 has a stack-based buffer overflow (129-byte write) in conv_bitmap in bit2spr.c via a long line in a bitmap file.
CVE-2020-11518
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
Zoho ManageEngine ADSelfService Plus before 5815 allows unauthenticated remote code execution.
CVE-2020-5347
PUBLISHED: 2020-04-04
Dell EMC Isilon OneFS versions 8.2.2 and earlier contain a denial of service vulnerability. SmartConnect had an error condition that may be triggered to loop, using CPU and potentially preventing other SmartConnect DNS responses.