Security Experts:

Server at Washington State Courts Office Hacked: Sensitive Data Exposed

160,000 Social Security Numbers, 1 Million Driver License Numbers Potentially Accessed in Web Server Compromise

The Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) said on Thursday that a public Web server (www.courts.wa.gov) operated by the Office containing sensitive information was hacked.

According to the breach notification, up to 160,000 social security numbers and 1 million driver license numbers may have been accessed, but the Office has only confirmed that 94 social security numbers were obtained by the attackers.

The breach was discovered in February, the AOC said.

“Following discovery of the breach, AOC took immediate action to further secure the environment and begin investigation and analysis into the depth and severity of the breach,” the AOC said in a statement.

While the breach notification itself did not disclose how the compromise occurred, court officials told the Associated Press that the breach was possible due to a vulnerability in Adobe’s ColdFusion software. The vulnerability has since been fixed, Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell told the AP.

Adobe did not immediately respond to a SecurityWeek inquiry into what specific vulnerability (CVE) in ColdFusion was exploited in the attack.

Earlier this week, Adobe warned of a new vulnerability in ColdFusion (CVE-2013-3336), that if exploited, could allow an attacker to remotely access files stored on a server. That vulnerability, for which an exploit is reportedly available, is scheduled to be patched on May 14.

According to the notification from the AOC, individuals meeting the following criteria could potentially be impacted by the breach:

Social Security Numbers: Up to 160,000 social security numbers may have been accessed.

o If you were booked into a city or county jail in the state of Washington between September 2011 through December 2012, you may have had your name and social security number accessed.

Driver License Numbers: The names and driver license numbers of up to one million people may have been accessed.

o If you received a DUI citation in Washington State between 1989 through 2011;

o If you had a traffic case in Washington State filed or resolved in a district or municipal court between 2011 through 2012; or

o If you had a superior court criminal case in Washington State filed against you or resolved between 2011 through 2012, you may have had your name and driver license number accessed.

The AOC said that it collaborated with the Washington State Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) and the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) for Internet security, who provided valuable information in determining the scope of the security breach.

While sensitive personal information may have been exposed, the AOC said that no personal financial information, such as bank account numbers or credit card numbers, was stored on the Web server.

“Although there is no hard evidence confirming the information was in fact compromised, the data was still vulnerable and should be considered as potentially exposed,” the AOC said.

“This highlights the first and second rule for protecting personal information. Know what personal information you have. Know where that information is located,” Gant Redmon, General Counsel & Vice President of Business Development at Co3 Systems, told SecurityWeek. “While the Washington courts may have known what information they had, they didn't seem to know where it was. Putting social security numbers on a website is like storing your valuables in the street.”

While the AOC downplayed the breach overall, it did warn citizens to be on the lookout for scammers in the event that more information was accessed and put to use by attackers.

“No one from the Washington State Court System, Administrative Office of the Courts, other state agencies, or any private company will call or email you to request your personal information, including your Social Security Number (SSN),” a statement from the AOC read. “Anyone who does so could be a scammer. Don't give out any personal information unless you initiated the contact by calling our hotline.”

“We regret that this breach has occurred and we have taken immediate action to enhance the security of these sites,” said Washington State Court Administrator Callie T. Dietz.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.