Pine County says that around 4,400 people may have their data breached after a county employee had their email account accessed by unauthorized personnel.
The incident happened in June when the county's payroll department received an email request to change the direct deposit for an employee's paycheck, something that must be done with a hardcopy form and employee signature. Pine County's IT department was then notified, and it was determined that the employee's email password was compromised.
After learning about the breach, the county launched an investigation and retained an independent forensics firm and legal and cybersecurity experts. It was during the investigation that Pine County learned the individual may have had access to messages and attachments with personal information in them.
According to Pine County, the information affected may include names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security Numbers, medical and/or health information and/or health insurance information, financial account numbers, mother’s maiden names, or state or government identification number.
The county went onto say that they contacted the individuals who may have been impacted by the incident by notification letters. These letters contain additional information about the incident and steps they can take to monitor and protect their personal information. More information about the incident can be requested by mail or email by contacting the County Administrator’s Office at (320) 591-1620 or mailing the request to 635 Northridge Drive, #200, Pine City, Minnesota 55063.
Since discovering the breach, Pine County Administrator David Minke says the county has put in place new security measures to stop this incident from happening again.
"The county has taken several steps to improve data security," Minke said in a statement to WCMP. "Including eliminated the use of webmail, eliminated the use of auto-forward rules, establish a three-year email retention limit starting in January, and implemented a cybersecurity employee training program."
Pine County has established a toll-free call center to answer any further questions about the incident. The center is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can be reached at 1-833-967-1094. You can also visit Pine County's MyIDCare site for more information.