Government data breaches

Government Data Breaches

Imagine your personal information falling into the wrong hands – your Social Security number, financial records, and medical history. This is the alarming reality of government data breaches, and they’re becoming more common than you might think. 

In recent years, millions of Americans have been affected by these breaches, which occur when hackers gain unauthorized access to government databases containing sensitive citizen information.

From the Office of Personnel Management to the Department of Veterans Affairs, every government agency faces cyber attacks.

If you’ve ever provided personal information to a government entity, a criminal may try to steal it. So, what can you do to protect yourself, and when should you contact an experienced data breach lawyer for legal help?

Types of Government Data Breaches

Government data breaches can occur in various ways, each with its own set of challenges and consequences. Here are some common types of government data breaches and recent examples:

Hacking and Malware Attacks

Hacking and Malware Attacks

Hackers can gain unauthorized access to government systems by exploiting vulnerabilities or using malware.

In 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) experienced a massive data breach that affected over 21 million individuals. Hackers accessed sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, financial records, and even fingerprint data.

Insider Threats

Government employees or contractors with access to sensitive information can misuse their privileges or fall victim to social engineering tactics.

In 2019, criminals breached the records of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) subcontractor who had improperly stored photos of travelers and license plates.

Physical Theft

Data breaches can also occur when physical devices containing sensitive information are stolen.

In 2006, a laptop and external hard drive containing personal information of over 26 million veterans were stolen from a Department of Veterans Affairs employee’s home. The incident put millions of veterans at risk of identity theft.

Accidental Disclosures

Human error can lead to unintentional data breaches. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Education accidentally released personal information of thousands of students and teachers due to a coding error in the database management system.

Third-Party Vendor Breaches

Many government agencies rely on third-party vendors for various services, and a breach at one of these vendors can expose government data.

In 2020, a ransomware attack on Blackbaud, a cloud computing provider, affected multiple government agencies, including the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

These examples demonstrate the wide range of government data breaches that can occur and the severe consequences on affected individuals. In many cases, those affected may not even know that criminals compromised their information until long after the breach occurred.

The Potential Consequences of a Government Data Breach

Government data breaches can have severe and long-lasting consequences for affected individuals. When sensitive personal information falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to various forms of identity theft and financial fraud.

Here are some of the potential consequences:

Identity Theft

One of the most common consequences of a government data breach is identity theft. Hackers can use stolen personal information, such as Social Security numbers, to open new credit accounts, take out loans, or file fraudulent tax returns in the victim’s name. This can result in significant financial losses and damage to the victim’s credit score.

Financial Fraud

Financial Fraud

With access to sensitive financial information, hackers can commit various types of financial fraud. They may make unauthorized purchases using stolen credit card numbers, drain bank accounts, or create counterfeit checks. This can leave victims struggling to recover lost funds and dealing with the stress of disputing fraudulent transactions.

Medical Identity Theft

If a data breach exposes medical records, hackers can commit medical identity theft. This involves using stolen personal information to obtain medical services, prescription drugs, or medical equipment in the victim’s name.

Victims may face incorrect entries in their medical records, leading to potential misdiagnoses or inappropriate treatments.

Reputational Damage

In some cases, hackers may use stolen personal information to impersonate victims online. They may create fake social media profiles, post offensive content, or engage in illegal activities under the victim’s name.

This can lead to reputational damage, both personally and professionally, as the victim may be falsely associated with the hacker’s actions.

Phishing Scams

Data breaches can also lead to an increase in phishing scams. Hackers may use stolen email addresses to send fraudulent messages, tricking victims into revealing additional personal information or downloading malware. This can result in further compromises of sensitive data and financial losses.

Emotional Distress

Dealing with the aftermath of a government data breach can be emotionally taxing for affected individuals. The stress of monitoring credit reports, disputing fraudulent transactions, and restoring one’s identity can take a significant toll on mental health and well-being. 

The far-reaching and long-lasting consequences of a government data breach can require victims to spend months or even years dealing with the devastating financial and emotional impacts. 

If a government data breach damages your finances or breaches your privacy, take immediate action to protect your personal information and minimize potential damages.

This may include placing fraud alerts on your credit reports, monitoring your accounts for suspicious activity, and considering legal action with the help of a consumer protection lawyer. 

The Role of a Consumer Protection Lawyer in a Government Data Breach Situation

Consumer Protection Lawyer

If you’ve been affected by a government data breach, it’s important to consider seeking legal help as soon as possible. A consumer protection lawyer can explain your rights and determine the best course of action.

You should consider seeking legal help if:

  • You’ve suffered financial losses due to identity theft or fraud resulting from the breach.
  • You’ve experienced emotional distress or reputational damage as a result of the breach.
  • The government agency has not provided adequate assistance or resources to help you recover from the breach.
  • You believe the government agency was negligent in protecting your personal information. 

A consumer protection lawyer can provide valuable assistance after a government data breach.

They can:

  • Explain your legal rights and options.
  • Assist in documenting any financial losses or other damages you’ve incurred due to the breach.
  • Communicate with the government agency on your behalf to ensure your rights are protected and your concerns are addressed.
  • Negotiate with the government agency to secure compensation for your losses and damages.
  • Represent you in court if necessary to seek the compensation you deserve.

If a government agency failed to protect citizen data, resulting in a breach, affected individuals may have grounds for legal action.

Your options may include:

  • Filing a complaint with the appropriate government oversight body, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Department of Justice (DOJ).
  • Participating in a class-action lawsuit against the government agency. This allows multiple affected individuals to join together and seek compensation as a group.
  • Filing an individual lawsuit against the government agency. This may be appropriate if you’ve suffered significant financial losses or other damages due to the breach. 

When pursuing legal action against a government agency, hire a skilled consumer protection lawyer. They can build a strong case, navigate the legal system, and fight for the compensation you deserve. 

In addition to seeking compensation for affected individuals, legal action against government agencies can also serve as a catalyst for change. By holding agencies accountable for failing to protect citizen data, consumer protection lawyers can push for improved data security measures and stronger regulations to prevent future breaches. 

Contact Kazerouni Law Group if You Have Been Affected by a Government Data Breach

If you’ve been affected by a government data breach, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a consumer protection lawyer at Kazerouni Law Group. They can protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve during a challenging time. 

Our attorneys hold government agencies accountable for failing to protect citizen data and advocate for the rights of affected individuals. We help victims navigate the challenging aftermath of a government data breach and work toward preventing future data breaches.

Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you regain control of your financial security and peace of mind.

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