In the midst of all of the end of session activity whirling around right now, I happened to come across what strikes me as a very important story that has appeared to slip under the radar screen.
Making a bad situation worse is this:
The state's professional-regulation department is notifying roughly 300,000 licensees and applicants that a computer server with some of their personal data was breached early this year, a spokeswoman for the agency said Friday. (Emphasis added)
Potentially at risk for identity theft are banking and real estate professionals whose licensing information - including addresses, tax numbers and Social Security numbers - were kept on the storage server, said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Hofer said investigators have determined that the breach "looks like criminal conduct." She said the hacking appears to have come from a source outside state government.
Department officials notified the Illinois State Police and FBI after they determined on May 3 that the computerized information had been compromised, probably in January, Hofer said.
She said authorities initially asked Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration not to tell licensees about the breach so that the investigation would not be compromised. The administration also did not immediately inform members of the General Assembly at the request of authorities, Hofer said.
State law is somewhat open-ended about how soon a public or private body must notify individuals when their personal data has been stolen, said Deborah Hagan, the chief of consumer protection for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The law allows investigators to delay disclosure, she said.
"I think there has to be a balance in terms of getting this information out to affected persons as quickly as possible - versus not interfering with an investigation which may result in catching the perpetrator," Hagan said.If you ask me, that balance should be tilted in favor of protecting the 300,000 licensees potentially affected by the incident, which include mortgage brokers, pawn shop operators and real-estate agents.I'm in no way saying that the Department acted improperly, provided that the statement that they held back the information was at the request of the authorities. But there are 300,000 Illinoisans right now that might not be sleeping too easily.