Successfully completing an application for Social Security Disability (SSD) is a long, involved process for most applicants. There is a great deal of personal information to enter and paperwork to attach, leaving many applicants feeling vulnerable after divulging such private information. Yet most trust that their information will only be seen by a small number of Social Security Administration personnel, all of whom will handle it with the utmost of care.
However, several thousand Social Security Disability applicants in New York are feeling less than protected this week, after it was revealed that a computer hacker was able to tap in to the SSD system and download the personal information of more than 15,000 people who had filed disability claims in the state.
Although the alleged computer hacker has been apprehended by law enforcement and is in police custody, officials say that some of the information was used in a limited way. According to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue, however, there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the leaked data. “We do not know the extent of the damage,” he said, adding that anyone whose personal information was used illegally will be contacted in the coming weeks.
According to Social Security Administration officials, the Social Security Disability applicants’ information was downloaded from the computers of private contractors employed by a state agency that was tasked with deciding some initial disability claims. The name of the agency has not been revealed.
In a statement, Commissioner Astrue said that the investigation into the incident is ongoing. “This individual is in custody and we continue to work with law enforcement to determine exactly what information was downloaded and the risk to the persons involved,” he said.
Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, “Social Security officials: hacker tapped data of 15,000 New Yorkers”, 10 December 2010