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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Data breach prompts Washington Department of Licensing to suspend professional license renewal

Among those professional licenses that may have been compromised in a potential cyberattack at the Washington Department of Licensing is real estate appraisers, brokers and branch offices.  (For Sale Sign)

The state agency responsible for licensing Washington businesses and individual professionals is urging license holders to review their records after a suspected data breach late last month.

The Washington Department of Licensing has taken down its online license application and renewal system after becoming “aware of suspicious activity involving professional and occupational license data.” The DOL does not believe any data related to driver’s and vehicle licenses was stolen.

“We immediately began investigating with the assistance of the Washington Office of Cybersecurity. As a precaution, DOL also shut down the Professional Online Licensing and Regulatory Information System (POLARIS) to protect the personal information of professional licensees,” the agency wrote on its website Thursday, announcing the outage and suspected data breach.

Of the roughly 40 professional and occupational licenses overseen by DOL, POLARIS contains information for 23 such professions, said Christine Anthony, communications manager for the agency. Those professions include architects, bail bondsmen, tattoo artists, cosmetologists, notaries, real estate appraisers and brokers, and more.

The system stores social security numbers, birthdates and vehicle registration numbers for some users. The department urges those who have used the system to check their statements and consider a free credit report system to determine if there is any fraudulent activity.

Those seeking to renew their licenses with the state during the POLARIS outage may complete an intent to renew form in order to avoid any penalties. The department said it “will not fine, penalize, or sanction a person for failing to renew their license during this POLARIS system shutdown.”

The department is still investigating the breach and will notify any users whose information might have been stolen. The system remained down as of Friday morning, Anthony said.

Those with questions about the breach can call a DOL hotline at (855) 568-2052. The phone line is available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.