MA: Hingham to inform 1,300 employees of compromised personal data

Molly A. K. Connors reports:

More than two weeks after a Hingham official inadvertently sent dozens of people a document containing the names and Social Security numbers of everyone who worked for the town last year, town officials said they will notify the 1,300 employees of the breach Wednesday afternoon through e-mail and first class mail.

Officials also said they will comply with state law requiring them to notify the state’s attorney general’s office and the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation of the breach, but maintain that the risk to employees is “beyond minimal.”

“We’re being overly cautious because it is sensitive information,” said Town Accountant Ted Alexiades.

I’m not so sure I would consider this “overly cautious.” The Massachusetts law defines a reportable breach as an unauthorized acquisition or unauthorized use of personal information of Massachusetts residents that creates a substantial risk of identity theft or fraud. As made clear later in the story, a lot of these emails were forwarded to other servers and personal accounts that are not on the network under their control.

Alexiades said he e-mailed the document, a spreadsheet that included full names, earnings type, employee identification numbers, and Social Security numbers – but not birthdays or addresses — to about 30 department heads at “mid-morning” on July 19 for their review. The information pertained to employees who work for the town in fiscal 2010, which ended June 30.

But here’s the part that really caught my attention: that official emails were being forwarded to personal accounts:

Once the error had been brought to his attention, Alexiades said, he recalled the e-mail, which he said automatically deleted half the files before they were ever opened.

Of the 30 or so e-mails, 11 had been automatically forwarded to personal computers or handheld devices through servers such as Comcast or Verizon, officials said, and therefore moved off the protected server the town maintains.

Read more in the Boston Globe. I didn’t notice any statement from the town that forwarding emails to personal accounts is a violation of their policies. I hope it is and that they follow through on that.

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