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Data Breaches Affected 3 Million WA Residents Last Year

A lot more WA residents were victims of data breaches in the last year (Getty Images)
A lot more WA residents were victims of data breaches in the last year (Getty Images)

According to a report from the Washington State Attorney General’s office, between July 2016 and this summer, millions of Washington residents had their personal information either compromised or potentially compromised.

This is the second such annual report released by the AG’s office. There were 78 data breaches that affected at least 3 million people. Only breaches that affected at least 500 or more were included in the report.

The AG’s office considers a breach to be an event when a person’s identity (Social Security, name, address, phone and other sensitive personal information) is compromised or was part of a known data breach. This report does not include the recent report by Equifax where a data breach potentially affected 143 million people nationwide.

The number of breaches, 78, were twice as many as reported in 2015-16. The number of people affected in our state was six times higher than the previous report.

Of these 78 breaches, the majority were due to malicious cyber-attacks, or deliberate attempts to break into computer systems and steal information. 25% were attributed to unauthorized third-party people such as vendors or employees of a business, who were able to illegally obtain information. A very small portion were due to theft or loss of computer equipment such as a laptop. And 3% were government-related, where government security systems were compromised.

Part of the reason for the increased number of reported breaches is due to new WA state laws that require companies to report such incidents much faster than in the past. But the AG’s office says the report shows that cyber crime continues to grow at an alarming rate, fast becoming one of the biggest in the state, as well as the nation.

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