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Brookhaven data breach 'was clerical error,' officials say

A screengrab of the Town of Brookhaven's website,

A screengrab of the Town of Brookhaven's website, where residents' personal information was mistakenly posted online. (June 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Brookhaven.org

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine on Thursday handed off an investigation into the inadvertent online posting of personal information to the town's law department -- the same unit that made the mistake.

Romaine could not be reached for comment about the appointment, but town attorney Annette Eaderesto defended her staff and said there are no plans to suspend or terminate anyone over the data breach. She did not rule out issuing a warning or reassignment.

"In this world, nobody is perfect. It was an accident. It was a mistake. It was a clerical error," she said, noting that the investigation was ongoing.

Town officials did not release the name of the employee who mistakenly made public the Social Security numbers of 78 ambulance workers and beneficiaries. The information was attached to a resolution posted on the town website on May 30. The posting remained accessible on the town website for five days.

News of the breach was made public by former county Legis. Vivian Viloria-Fisher, the Democratic challenger to Republican Romaine, at Tuesday night's town board meeting.

A similar problem occurred in 2010 when the same type of information was posted to the town website, again as an attachment to a resolution.

Eaderesto said the mistake was made last month when a law department employee failed to click on the "no public access" check box in the computer system that adds the information to the website. She said one person was responsible for checking the information in the past; now there will be three.

Meanwhile, Romaine said on Thursday that town officials have identified at least one person, whom they believe to be politically motivated, who disseminated the personal information without consent. That action is a violation of state law.

Eaderesto said she personally will submit to authorities the information of anyone who she can prove emailed the personal information.

"We're just surprised that people who should be public-spirited . . . and say something to the town about it, instead withheld the information and tried to use it for political purposes," said Romaine, who declined to identify the person.

The law department has identified a "minimal" number of people who accessed the Social Security numbers, according to Eaderesto.

Holbrook resident Brian Harford, 29, had his Social Security number posted. "I'm concerned, but I have to wait until something happens before we can do anything about it," he said Thursday.

Town officials said none of the people whose name was listed has claimed to be a victim of fraud or identify theft, and that many of the workers and beneficiaries contacted by the town have "been quite gracious," Eaderesto said.

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