Texas Comptroller Takes Responsibility for Breach

Comptroller Susan Combs giving a biennial revenue estimate in Austin on Jan. 10, 2011.
Comptroller Susan Combs giving a biennial revenue estimate in Austin on Jan. 10, 2011.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has announced another move to help the 3.5 million Texans who had their personal data exposed by her state office. Earlier initiatives to help Texans in the Teacher Retirement System, Employees Retirement System and Texas Workforce Commission provided discounted subscriptions to credit monitoring services. Now, Combs says she'll use campaign funds to pay for one year of credit monitoring and internet surveillance, along with identity restoration services. Combs talked with Ben Philpott, who covers state politics and policy for the Tribune and KUT News, about the data breach. You can hear the full interview below.

A few of the highlights:

Combs now says she takes full responsibility for the data exposure. Some of her initial comments had criticized the way agencies sent the data to the comptroller's office. Today she says, "We're the last door. We're it. And as head of the agency, I am responsible."

She says she's not thinking about her political future right now. "My job is to not worry about anything political. My job — No. 1 — is to accept responsibility."

Audio: TT Interview with Comptroller Susan Combs

As for spending her campaign funds, Combs said it is appropriate that she absorb the cost for identity restoration for people who have had their information stolen and used.

Are Combs and the state prepared to deal with problems related to the security breach that occur more than a year later, perhaps even two years later? According to some identity protection experts, data thieves often sit on stolen information for up to two years before using it, to avoid raising immediate suspicion. Combs said it depends. She also does not think there will be a liability issue — but that's a question for the Texas attorney general's office.

She also went over a long list of new procedures to make sure this kind of data exposure never happens again.

 

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