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Security Breach On WV Secretary Of State Website Leads To Posting Of Social Security Numbers

Reported: May. 30, 2014 6:15 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 6, 2014 11:58 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Katy Brown) -- Personal information was displayed on a government website for everyone to see, due to a security breach.

We've all been told to never give out your Social Security number, but what happens when a government office actually displays yours for anyone to see?

Sandra Kay Ashworth is understandably upset. She is the owner of Countryside Insurance Agency in St. Albans.

"To see this out as a matter of public record is appalling to me," she said.

She recently learned her Social Security number was displayed for all to see, thanks to the West Virginia Secretary of State's website.

Ashworth found the alleged error while going through the site with a co-worker.

"I said, ‘Wait a minute. Stop. I need you to go back to the page previous. I thought i saw something that shouldn't be here,’ " she said.

And sure enough, Ashworth's Social Security number was displayed on the website - and not only hers, but also the Social Security numbers of people associated with the business.

Ashworth called Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office and explained the problem.

"I never did get a call back from them,” she said. “But this really concerned me. We got a problem."

And, actually, it was pretty simple for anyone to get ahold of those social security numbers. All you had to do was go to the Secretary of State's website, click on “Business and Licensing,” then you go to “Search Business Organizations Database.”

Upon clicking in that section, the numbers could be found.

The information has since been removed, and when one clicks into the documents, they get a ‘server error” message.

It's unclear how many business owners were affected.

Tennant's office released a statement, reading, "This information was provided in 2008, before Secretary Tennant took office, as part of a business filing that used a form that is not a secretary of state's office form. In fact, at Secretary Tennant's request, we no longer receive those forms and haven't since October of 2012. The image that inadvertently displayed a Social Security number was taken down immediately upon notification. We are currently reviewing procedures to identify other possible errors, and will address them immediately if any others are found."




CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) – West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office said Friday that individuals’ Social Security numbers found on her office’s website were the result of a business filing that did not use a secretary of state’s office form.

Eyewitness News learned Friday that Social Security numbers of individuals were posted in a section of the West Virginia secretary of state web site.

Eyewitness News informed Tennant's office of the security breach, and was told her web administrator has since removed links to the information.

Jake Glance, Tennant’s press secretary, said the information was provided in 2008, before Tennant took office and that she has requested the office quit using the forms.

“In fact, at Secretary Tennant’s request we no longer receive those forms and haven’t since October of 2012,” Glance said in a statement.

Glance said the secretary of state’s office does not require social security numbers on any business filing.

“If a Social Security number is inadvertently provided to our office, we redact that information before it is posted to our website,” Glance said. “The image that inadvertently displayed a social security number was taken down immediately upon notification. We are currently reviewing procedures to identify other possible errors, and will address them immediately if any others are found. Since Secretary Tennant took office, we have worked to redact personally identifiable information that was provided to this office prior to 2009. We have already redacted online filings made regarding charities, UCC filings, and we redact social security numbers that mistakenly come in on new business filings."



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