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Alaska notifies 87,000 people after computer security breach

January 24, 2019 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — About 87,000 letters were sent to Alaska residents possibly affected by a computer security breach at the state Division of Public Assistance last year, officials said.

Officials have not found signs that data was compromised, but officials are still contacting current or former participants in division programs, division director Shawnda O’Brien told KTVA-TV .

“We don’t have any reason to believe their information was compromised, but because their information could have been compromised we had to let them know,” O’Brien said.


The letters stem from a virus that infected one of the division’s computers in late April 2018, O’Brien said.

The division’s eligibility database might have been compromised due to “unauthorized access by unknown cyber attackers,” the state Department of Health and Social Services said. The database contains personal information, including names, Social Security numbers, health information and addresses.

The division computer affected by the breach “accessed sites in Russia, had unauthorized software installed, and other suspicious computer behavior that provided strong indications of a computer infection,” the department said in a previous statement.

Information technology staff stopped the spread of the virus after it was discovered, but “it had gotten into several layers of our security,” O’Brien said.

The FBI provided the state with a list of people who might have been affected. The state then used a contractor to send letters.

“Due to the volume of information and the data to be researched, we enlisted the assistance of the FBI,” O’Brien said. “It took them several months to get through. It was a pretty extensive task that they had.”

The FBI is still investigating. State officials said they are changing security procedures.


Information from: KTVA-TV, http://www.ktva.com