Data linked to professional licenses may be affected by potential Washington state breach

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Professionals attempting to renew their license in Washington state are redirected to information on a possible security breach.

The data of professionals licensed with Washington state may have been compromised, according to the agency that issues such licenses.

The state issues and processes about 40 types of professional and occupational licenses through a database called POLARIS (Professional Online Licensing and Regulatory Information System). Professionals in the database include real estate brokers, architects, geologists, tattoo artists, and others.

The state Department of Licensing said it “became aware of suspicious activity” associated with POLARIS the week of Jan. 24, according to a statement released last week. The state shut down the system “to determine whether the suspicious activity indicates that POLARIS database has been accessed.”

Possible breached information may include social security numbers, drivers license numbers, and date of birth for people in the POLARIS database. There is “no indication” that data from other Department of Licensing operations was affected, according to the department.

Update, Feb. 11: The Department of Licensing provided an update Friday, saying that a data breach has occurred and that up to 650,000 people may be affected.

State Sen. Reuven Carlyle told the Seattle Times that the cybersecurity office had “sounded the alarm of a possible breach after detecting ‘chatter’ about the Department of Licensing on the ‘dark web.’”’

About 250,000 active licenses are in the database, which is maintained by Salesforce, the Seattle Times reported, and several of these individuals have said their information has been detected on the “dark web,” a corner of the internet where stolen data is often traded.

The potential breach comes more than a year after the data of more than 1.6 million Washingtonians was compromised as part of the state auditor’s investigation into fraudulent unemployment claims. The state lost nearly $650 million to such claims, about 60% of which has been recovered.

Professionals who now require recertification or other services are being directed to a call center and a website.

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