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Friday, June 9, 2023
June 9, 2023

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AG: Washington data breaches are at a ‘record-breaking severity’


BELLINGHAM — Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Tuesday that data breaches in Washington has hit another ‘historic high’ this year. The number of data breaches throughout 2022 stands at 4.5 million, after the all-time high in 2021 of 6.3 million breaches.

Ferguson is using the release of his seventh annual data breach report to propose several health care related legislative reforms to protect reproductive and gender-affirming care data, in particular.

“The report shows that data breaches remain at record-breaking severity,” stated Ferguson in a press release. “This year, 4.5 million data breach notices were sent to Washingtonians.”

Ferguson’s office began tracking data breach numbers in 2016.

Washington state laws require that when a data breach happens, organizations must send notices to all consumers with exposed data. They also must report any data breaches that affect more than 500 Washington residents to the attorney general’s office.

In 2022, 4.5 million notices were sent to affected Washington residents and the attorney general’s office received 150 data breach notifications. That is the second-highest number of yearly notifications, and more than double the average number from 2016 to 2020.

According to the report, 2022 is the second year that Washington residents have been victims of a “mega breach,” which affects more than 1 million residents.

In 2018, a data breach at Equifax, a credit report agency, affected 3.2 million Washington residents.

In 2022, a T-Mobile cybersecurity attack affected more than 2 million Washington residents.

Keep personal data safe

The attorney general’s report makes several policy suggestions for Washington lawmakers to help protect citizens’ personal data. These policy changes include a call to pass legislation to protect private health data, after Ferguson announced his intentions to increase privacy protection for reproductive and gender-affirming care data.

The state provides a searchable database of data breach notifications in Washington.

To protect your own personal data and information, the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Advice website suggests a few tips:

  • Secure your devices by keeping your internet browsers, security software and operating system updated.
  • Secure your personal accounts that collect information such as your bank account, emails and social media accounts. Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.
  • Protect your home network as a data breach on one device could lead to other devices and accounts connected to the same home network.
  • Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission to receive identity theft recovery assistance.