12/20/2014

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Hacker compromises patient and firefighter information

Hacker compromises patient and firefighter information

DUVALL, Wash. -- Having firemen come to your house or accident scene is traumatic enough, but now some Eastside residents who experienced such an event may be vunerable to identity theft.

A hacker gained entry into a computer server run by NORCOM, the North East King County Regional Public Safety Communication Agency, which is responsible for dispatching first responders for many fire districts.

"It didn't involve the call center at all," said NORCOM executive director Tom Orr.

Orr said it was a separate server inside their Bellevue headquarters that was used to share files internally with agencies NORCOM works with.

The security beach was first discovered by a NORCOM technician in December. NORCOM says it appears the hacker's intent was to place spam rely software on the server, but Orr said the hacker was unable to do so.

The server was holding databases related to call out information from the fire districts serving Duvall, Skykomish and Snoqualmie Pass.

A preliminary investigation suggests names, address, dates of birth, nature of emergency call and initial medical condition information were exposed to the hacker.  Six thousand potential patients could be part of that database says Orr.

The responding firefighters where not immune to exposure as well. NORCOM says 231 full-time and volunteer firefighters working in the affected districts could have had their driver's license information, date of birth, social security number, emergency contact and limited medical information compromised as well.

"We can't even say with definitiveness that someone downloaded or access those files," Orr said.

In a cautionary move, NORCOM is notifying everyone in these databases of the compromise.

"As the fire chief I can't help but feel sympathy and empathy impacted by it, I don't want it to happen on my watch," said Duval Fire Chief David Burke.  He notified 39 current and past firefighters of the compromise.

Burke calls the breach an unfortunate sign of the times, especially for small fire district that migrates its data to NORCOM in an effort to be efficient and save money.

"The thieves follow technology a whole lot better than the security systems do," Burke said. "If we can somehow capture that genius on the other side I think it would help all of us a little bit."

Only those treated by firefighters in the areas surrounding Duvall, Skykomish and Snoqualmie pass over the last several years are at risk.

Bellevue Police and the Secret Service are investigating the breach.  NORCOM has set up an email and phone number for people with questions.  The information hotline is (425) 646-8011 and email is hotline@norcom.org.

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