House approves Mosbrucker bill to prevent data breaches in two state agencies

The state House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that seeks to provide greater security against data breaches within the Employment Security Department and the Department of Labor and Industries.

Just two weeks ago, the state Auditor’s Office learned that someone may have gained access to the personal information of more than a million Washington citizens who filed unemployment claims last year. This was in addition to the Nigerian fraud ring last spring in which scammers tapped into Employment Security and made off with hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.

In response, Representative Gina Mosbrucker introduced House Bill 1455, which she says contains two important components to increase security and avoid hackers:

“One is that it asks Employment Security Department and Labor and Industry to just examine their practices of how they disclose individual Social Security numbers in agency correspondence with third party entities. Also, it requires those agencies, whenever possible, to institute procedures to replace the use of a full nine-digit Social Security number.”

Mosbrucker owns and operates several businesses in Goldendale, including a motel. She says many businesses discontinued the use of full nine-digit Social Security numbers in transactions many years ago. It makes sense, she says, for state government to do the same.

The bill passed the House 96 to 0. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration.