MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (WRIC)– The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) is now investigating after some residents’ personal information was leaked in a data breach of one of their online programs.
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, families on the waiting list to receive Individual and Family Support Program funding logged onto the website.
The program assists family members with disabilities. According to the department, those on the waiting list and their families receive resources, support and services. DBHDS also said the program helps the continued residence of individuals with developmental disabilities in their own home or the family home.
Family members who are involved in the program told 8News, a maximum amount of $1,000 can be distributed per child in the household.
Within six minutes of families logging into the portal on Thursday, there was a data breach.
Regina Hodges, a Mechanicsville mom, said she was applying for funds for her autistic son. Hodges said another person’s information took the place of his profile, including the last four digits of their social security number — she said she noticed the mistake immediately.
“I clicked on it thinking ‘maybe it’s just a name that’s off,” Hodges said. “No, at that moment I had someone else’s name, their address, their date of birth, everything that a less honorable person could use to steal [an] identity.”
The discovery scared Cassandra Petrosky, who is a parent of two sons with special needs. Petrosky also applied right when the portal opened that morning.
“Everyone’s posting on this Facebook page that something’s wrong, so I go in and I see my kids are no longer on my profile. It’s another kid,” Petrosky said.
Petrosky told 8News, the child’s profile that was listed where her sons’ profiles were supposed to be, included an address in Vienna, which is nearly three hours away from where she lives.
According to Petrosky, she has been participating in the program to fund her sons’ dance classes at Miracles in Motion, a program designed to provide the full dance experience to people with special needs.
“I don’t want them missing out on it. They’ve been doing if for seven years and they love it.” Petrosky said. “It’s so cool seeing these special needs children playing together. I don’t want to take that away from them because people had a big hiccup.”
While the department sent a message to families notifying them about the situation, Hodges said it’s frustrating since this wasn’t the department’s first breach.
“How do you go this many months, years? It’s been two years since the last breach and you haven’t fixed the system,” Hodges said.
On Oct. 1, 2019, a similar problem occurred. In a letter sent to families two years ago, the department said the personal information of some applicants for the Individual and Family Support Program funding may have been seen by other applicants through the portal. This breach was discovered within 16 minutes.
DBHDS continued to email applicants that they were working on the problem.
“We were alarmed and disappointed to learn about the IFSP portal issue on Thursday. This incident appears to be similar to an incident that occurred in 2019. DBHDS’ internal team and VITA have been working to simulate and solve the issue since then. Extensive review and testing took place over 17 months prior to this program being put back into service. The program was functioning properly and it was believed the portal was clear to operate as scheduled.”Lauren Cunningham
Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS)
“When you have a special needs family member you’re constantly fighting for their life, not just right now but the future, and making sure you’ve navigated the system,” Hodges said. “Then to have the system and the agencies fail you not once, but twice just within this program. It’s not about the funding for me.”
According to the department, the IT team is working to find out the number of people affected and is notifying each person individually. They’re investigating the problem and have reached out to outside resources through the VITA partnership to assist with the investigation.
Listserv members will receive updates when they become available. Individuals and families that were impacted can send additional questions and concerns to IFSPSupport@dbhds.virginia.gov.
“We fully recognize IFSP is a valuable program for many Virginians,” Cunningham said. “We will continue to work diligently towards a secure solution for this important program.” said