Thursday, March 08, 2001

State closes 2 Web sites

Info raised fear of identity theft

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — State officials have shut down two state government Web sites that made confidential information — such as employees' Social Security numbers — accessible to the public through the Internet.

        State Auditor Ed Hatchett said he ordered the sites shut down last week for fear of identity theft, which is the use of another person's identification by criminal impostors to get credit and open checking accounts.

        “Because government possesses personal, confidential information concerning our citizens, it has fiduciary responsibility to handle that data carefully so as not to foster or facilitate identity theft,” Mr. Hatchett said in a statement Wednesday.

Professionals exposed

        On Feb. 28, auditors found the first of the two sites, an accessible government Web site that contained the names, Social Security numbers, addresses and other personal information for hundreds of professionals licensed by the state.

        The site for the Governor's office for Technology contained 11 folders with information on every veterinarian, social worker, psychologist, geologist and occupational therapist, among other professionals in the state.

        Auditors quickly contacted the Governor's office for Technology, which shut down the site, the statement said.

        The second site, discovered on March 2, contained a master list that displayed all the names, positions, Social Security numbers and salaries for all state employees.

        The list was prepared by the state Personnel Cabinet and was found through the state Attorney General's Web site, said Harold McKinney, spokesman for the auditor's office.

        That file was also taken off line.

Costly problem

        Mr. Hatchett said Kentucky's reliance on Social Security numbers for identification coupled with state government's vulnerable computer system make residents especially susceptible to identity theft.

        Last year more than 500,000 people nationwide were the victims of identity theft, accounting for about $2 billion in losses.


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