Data exposure: Counties across the U.S. posting sensitive info online
Social Security numbers, driver's license data and bank account numbers are all easily available
Computerworld - Broward County, Fla., Maricopa County, Ariz., Fort Bend County, Texas. Three counties separated by hundreds of miles with something in common: Theyre among potentially hundreds of counties in several states that in recent years have made Social Security numbers, driver's license information, bank account numbers and a variety of other personally sensitive data belonging to residents available to anyone in the world with Internet access.
The exposure follows the failure to redact sensitive information from land records and other public documents posted on the Internet and makes county Web sites a veritable treasure trove of information for identity thieves and other criminals, according to a number of privacy advocates.
These sites are just spoon-feeding criminals the information they need, said B.J. Ostergren, a privacy advocate based in Richmond, Va. But no one appears to be seeing it and nobodys changing the laws, she said.
Among the pieces of personally identifiable information from county Web sites made available to Computerworld by Ostergren and other privacy advocates were: Rep. Tom Delays Social Security number on a tax lien document; the Social Security numbers for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife on a quit claim deed from 1999; drivers license numbers, addresses, vehicle registration information, height and race of individuals arrested for traffic violations; names and dates of birth of minors from final divorce decrees and family court documents; and even complete copies of death certificates with Social Security numbers, dates of birth and cause of death. (The Social Security numbers for Bush and his wife have been redacted and are no longer available online.)
All of this information is available to anyone sitting in a cafe in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world, said David Bloys, a retired private investigator who publishes a newsletter called "News for Public Officials" in Shallowater, Texas. Its a real security threat.
Those concerns follow news that personally identifiable information belonging to an unknown number of current and former residents of Florida are available online because sensitive information has not been removed from public records posted on county Web sites in that state.
Its unclear exactly how many of the 3,600 county governments in the United States do the same thing, said Mark Monacelli, president of the Property Records Industry Association, a Durham, N.C.-based industry group set up to facilitate the recording of, and access to, public property information.
But its safe to assume that many of them are posting sensitive data online, based on the trend by local governments to provide Web-based access to public records, said Darity Wesley, CEO of Privacy Solutions, a privacy consultancy for the real estate industry based in San Diego. I think a lot of [county] recorders have been putting [images of] public land records on the Internet without any concern about who has access to it, Wesley said.
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Infographic: Converged Infrastructure Benefits This Infographic quantifies the savings organizations are realizing from increased deployment speed, higher availability, and lower annual costs.
- CIOs Deliver Productivity Breakthroughs with Intelligent Digital Signage Retailers have long recognized the influence that digital signage provides over a shopper's point-of-purchase decision making process.
- Going Paperless? Here's What You Need to Think About As makers of some of the world's most popular PDF solutions, we often consult with businesses & governmental agencies that have the goal...
- The Big Data Opportunity for HR and Finance If CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and CHROs want to drive their businesses forward, they will need to quickly recognize the enormous value of big...
- Data Protection and Disaster Recovery with iSCSI and VMware Get this on demand webcast now
- Top 4 Digital Signage Fails Join RMG Networks for a look at four of the most common reasons digital signage fails in corporate businesses. Learn about strategies to... All Privacy White Papers | Webcasts
Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!