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Washington state data breach prompts calls for new cybersecurity office

The proposed law would create a new state "Office of Cybersecurity" and would bring about new statewide standards.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — After a data breach that may have compromised personal information of more than 1 million residents, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has called for the creation of a state “Office of Cybersecurity.”

Last week, state Auditor Pat McCarthy announced the hacking of a third-party vendor the state hired potentially exposed private information of more than a million people who applied for unemployment benefits with the state last year.

This incident came after the massive fraud ring that used the names of thousands of Washington residents to steal at least $600 million from the Employment Security Department.

RELATED: 'Completely unacceptable': Data breach compromised info of 1.6 million Washingtonians who sought unemployment

State senators Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, and Joe Nguyen, D-Seattle, sponsored Senate Bill 5432, which would establish that new office to set statewide standards for cybersecurity, instead of each state agency coming up with individual protocols.

The office would also have to be notified within 24 hours of a data breach.

Carlyle called the recent incident with the Auditor’s office “incredibly serious,” but said the state has had other data breaches and fraudulent claims highlighting cybersecurity flaws in recent years.

He said the new office would help the state prevent incidents and be in a better position to react to them, and offer victims assistance.

"It is simply unacceptable for Washington state both from a responsibility to the public but also to taxpayers. We need to have the highest quality systems and we are not meeting that standard today,” Carlyle said.

He said establishing a new office would cost the state less than $1 million.

The proposal had a hearing before the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology committee Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. John Braun said the state needs to focus on using the resources it already has to protect information.

“We continue to see, you know, poor performance from our agencies around the state,” said Braun, R-Centralia, “And I don't think adding more government is the solution, I think we have to, at some point, decide we're going to hold folks accountable."

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