Adams County data breach could affect more than 250,000 people; - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Adams County data breach could affect more than 250,000 people; county official under investigation

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ADAMS COUNTY (WKOW) -- Investigators have launched a criminal investigation after discovering a major data breach of the Adams County computer system, and court records show a top county official is a target of the probe.

Adams County received a report in June that personal and tax information for approximately 258,120 people was on the the computer network and system that was compromised.

Adams County issued a news release Friday, saying that because of the number of people impacted by the breach they are giving notice statewide.

The breach included data from the Veteran Service Office, Extension Office, Adams County Employees, Solid Waste, Health and Human Services, Child Support and Sheriff's Office from Jan/ 1, 2013 through March 28, 2018.

A suspect or suspects have been identified during the course of the investigation no longer have any access rights to view the entirety of the Adams County computer network and system, according to a news release.

Dane County court records show a Wisconsin Department of Justice special agent seized the lap top computer of County Clerk Cindy Phillippi.  The judicially-approved search warrant to obtain the computer was based on the suspicion misconduct in public office and computer crimes took place.

A search warrant affidavit states Phillippi used a computer logging tool to gain access to computer functions beyond her authorization, and "...captured keystrokes for nearly all computers owned by the county."

The affidavit also states Phillippi provided a former county employee with confidential emails from the computer system. 

Phillippi has yet to respond to requests for comment from 27 News, and was not at work Friday.  A department of justice spokesperson has also yet to respond to a request for comment on the DOJ investigation.  There has been no arrest of Phillippi, nor has any criminal charge been lodged against her at this time.

Adams County manager Casey Bradley also declines comment on the investigation.  Bradley does say the suspect or suspects involved with the breach accessed the computer network internally.

Lena Bellon contracts with the county to provide services to people with developmental disabilities, and is one of the thousands whose personal information has been compromised.

Bellon says she's concerned about access to information such as her social security number, but says she's confident Adams County officials have taken steps to address the breach.  "And whoever did it will get chastised,"  Bellon says.

Bradley says consultation with outside experts led to security upgrades.

"We've been connected with a number of different entities...to try to identify exactly where all the vulnerabilities are...and actually monitoring as it goes forward,"  Bradley says.  To ensure the integrity of Adams County Sheriff's records, Bradley says Wood County Sheriff's personnel are screening all access to records.

Bradley and a Wisconsin State Elections Commission official say the breach does not impact any computer function to be used to carry out next week's election in Adams County.

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