Ag Commissioner Putnam Works To Address Hacking Concerns Quickly

May 24, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Credit Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services via wikimedia commons

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is regrouping after a data breach under its roof.  The commissioner, who is also running for higher office, is working to allay concerns.

Monday state officials announced the department of agriculture and consumer services, suffered a cyber-attack and hackers had made off with the personal information of nearly five hundred Floridians.  The department handles a broad swath of licensing and permitting services.  From registering as a travel agent or a bee keeper to picking up a permit to feed garbage to swine or becoming a licensed surveyor.  But one of the agency’s most recognizable services is concealed weapons permits.  After Tuesday’s cabinet meeting Commissioner Adam Putnam was quick to tamp down concerns.

“The only information that was stolen by the hackers as it relates to the CWL database was their name,” Putnam says.  “Which in any other database would not be much of a concern because you can’t use that name to steal your identity, to steal your money.”

He explains the attack affected two groups.  In addition to the concealed weapons database, hackers were able to gain information about a number of different license or permit applicants. 

“They had used their social security number in e-commerce business transactions within the department—not gun related,” Putnam stresses.  “A food permit, a license [for a] pesticide applicator—any number of e-commerce features that we feature in our department.”

Putnam’s office is reaching out to 400-odd consumers affected by that part of the data breach, and offering a year of identity theft protection through the company Life-Lock. 

Long-time National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer isn’t particularly worried about the breach’s impact on Florida’s gun owners.

“As far as concealed weapons license holders go,” Hammer says,  “you know these people are trained and carry guns for protection—I don’t think many people are going to mess with them.”

And she believes the slip up could actually be positive in the long term—encouraging the agency to improve its security.

“So I think that this type of breach could have been fortuitous,” Hammer continues, “because now they know where the weak link is and they can take steps to fix it.”

In total, hackers got 16,190 names from the concealed weapons database, which agency officials note is less than one percent of license holders.