Potential Data Breach May Have Affected 250,000 Licensed Professionals: Washington State Agency

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a reporter based in Australia. She covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at mimi.nl@epochtimes.com
February 5, 2022 Updated: February 5, 2022

The Department of Licensing (DOL) of Washington State announced on Friday it is investigating a potential data breach that may have affected hundreds and thousands of people.

The agency, besides issuing driver and vehicle licenses, also issues licenses for 39 categories of businesses and professionals, including for appraisers, engineers, barbers, bail bondsmen, real estate agents, car dealers, driving instructors, and firearms licenses, to ensure they have proper documentation and are in compliance with state regulations.

The DOL said that it detected suspicious activity in the week of Jan. 24 on one of its online license application and renewal system—the Professional Online Licensing and Regulatory Information System (POLARIS)—which is used for professional licenses, not for driver and vehicle licensing.

Following the suspicious activity, the agency temporarily shut down the system and also immediately started investigating the matter, it said.

The potential data breach may have affected the personal data linked to the 257,000 active licenses in the POLARIS system, reported The Seattle Times.

“We are working with the Washington Office of Cybersecurity to protect the licensing data and bring POLARIS back online as soon as possible,” the DOL announced Friday. “With the support and assistance of nationally recognized cybersecurity experts, we are investigating what happened and what data and people may be affected.”

“The POLARIS system stores information about its license holders and applicants. The type of information varies for different licenses and may include social security numbers, dates of birth, driver license numbers, and other personally identifying information.

“If our investigation concludes that your personal information has been accessed, DOL will notify you and provide you with further assistance.”

The agency noted that it has “no indication that any other DOL data was affected, such as driver and vehicle licensing information,” and that all other DOL systems “are operating normally.”

Mimi Nguyen Ly is a reporter based in Australia. She covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at mimi.nl@epochtimes.com