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Montana loses data on MORE PEOPLE THAN LIVE IN MONTANA

Health department hack leaves 1.3 million vulnerable

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The state of Montana is warning citizens and offering free credit monitoring and identity protection service after a data breach exposed information on 1.3 million people.

The state Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is providing notification to citizens after hackers breached one of the department's servers. It is not known if any of the records were actually copied, though officials noted there is no evidence that the personal data is being exploited.

The DPHHS said that while records were exposed, no data was lost or deleted in the attack, and the availability of services will not be affected. The department did not disclose how the attackers were able to gain access to the server.

The 1.3 million figure is especially striking, as the current population of Montana (according to 2012 census data) is just over one million people. The DPHHS said that the large number was because exposed data included not only all DPHHS programs for current residents, but also birth and death records from the state Vital Statistics office.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are notifying those whose personal information could have been on the server," DPHHS director Richard Opper said in a statement.

"Again, we have no reports, nor do we have any evidence that anyone's information was used in any way, or even accessed," Opper said.

Regardless of whether the data was copied or will ever be put to use by the hackers, the largely rural state could find itself with a sizable bill to clean up the matter. Officials have begun to notify those affected that the Montana Government will be footing the bill for both identity theft insurance (up to $2m) and credit-monitoring services. ®

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