Website glitch may have exposed thousands of Allegheny County couples’ personal data

PITTSBURGH — An 11 Investigates exclusive report has now led to a comprehensive cybersecurity investigation in Allegheny County. Thanks to a tip from a viewer to Channel 11′s Susan Koeppen, we were able to expose a glitch in the Allegheny County website.

The glitch pertained to married couples in Allegheny County who filed for a marriage license.

A local bride stumbled upon the flaw, by mistake, while using the online marriage license application link. The glitch allowed you to “auto-fill” the private, hidden information of married couples into a new marriage license application if you looked up their public marriage license first.

After being alerted to this glitch, Channel 11′s Susan Koeppen began to investigate. She was able to find the names, addresses, occupations, social security numbers, and dates of birth for several brides and grooms who got married in Allegheny County, including such famous names as Cam Heyward from the Steelers, Pennsylvania’s Lt. Governor Austin Davis, and Allegheny County Controller, Corey O’Connor. She contacted them all for comment, which they declined.

Koeppen also contacted the Allegheny County Department of Court Records to report this serious glitch. County officials were unaware of this flaw in the system and within hours they had it disabled. The glitch is now fixed. How many people had their information exposed is unknown, but Allegheny County is now doing a comprehensive investigation.

What could happen if someone was able to access all that personal information? We asked Ian Bednowitz from LifeLock, an identity theft monitoring company. Bednowitz says, “If your social security number gets compromised like this, someone can take that, they can apply for credit cards in your name, loans in your name, mortgages in your name. They could even go and try to transfer the deed to your home to their name.”

When asked if brides and grooms in Allegheny County should be worried, Bednowitz responded, “Yes.”

Katie Lederman was married in Pittsburgh in 2017. She was shocked to learn that her personal information may have been compromised. “It shouldn’t be there for the world to see. I feel violated, “says Lederman, who wants the county to offer free credit monitoring for anyone who might be impacted.

Allegheny County spokesperson, Abigail Gardner, issued the following statement: “The issue previously identified with the County’s marriage license web application has been resolved, and the application is secure for use. We are currently working with a specialized cybersecurity firm to confirm our understanding of the incident and its potential impact. As the review is ongoing, we do not want to make premature assumptions about the extent of impact or other details, which may change as the investigation progresses. Once the investigation is complete, we will notify any individuals who may have been impacted by the incident directly.”

In the meantime, anyone who is concerned about protecting their identity can take the following steps:

  • Contact the three credit reporting bureaus. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
  • Ask for an alert on your account which will notify you any time someone tries to get credit in your name.
  • Put a freeze on your credit so no one can access your credit report. This option is not good for someone who is currently looking for a mortgage or car loan, for example.
  • Sign up with a credit monitoring service.
  • File a police report if you see suspicious activity on your account.

Experts warn you should be vigilant and pay close attention to all your accounts.

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