Texas drivers of Asian descent have reportedly been targeted by a Chinese crime organization in New York.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) mistakenly sent some 3,000 driver’s licenses to an organized crime group in an unwitting security breach. DPS Director Steve McCraw informed a Texas House committee of the breach last Monday, according to NBC News.
Although the incident was discovered in December, DPS only began notifying the victims last week.
“We’re not happy at all,” McCraw said, per Fox News. “Controls should have been in place and this should have never happened.”
The criminal organization responsible for the security breach has not been identified.
According to DPS, as many as 4,000 fraudulent accounts were created with the Department of Information Resources, through which licenses are typically ordered. Nearly 2,500 licenses were then sent to “third-party addresses” the department said in a letter to legislators, according to a report from The Dallas Morning News.
The organization behind the fraud allegedly used the dark web to obtain personal data and then used that data to order replacement licenses, rather than hacking state computer systems, according to Fox News. The criminal enterprise allegedly intended to match the licenses with Chinese nationals illegally living in the country.
“The number one thing we have as a government agency, as government folks, is trust. And when we lose that trust by not thinking through, it’s difficult to rebuild that trust with the people,” Texas Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) said to Fox News regarding the breach. Gonzalez added that Texans could have had their identities stolen for months and not known about it.
Debbie Chen, civic engagement programs director for OCA Greater Houston, an Asian American civil rights organization, called the state’s delayed response unacceptable.
“Three years into the pandemic, people have really experienced anti-Asian hate. People have felt scapegoated. And then you have a government agency who knew about this months in advance and did nothing,” Chen said, as reported by NBC News. “That contributes to this fear of, ‘Do you consider us as equal citizens compared to everyone else?’”
“Your identity can impact literally everything in your life. It could have caused people to have had their wages garnished, it could have caused them to be under criminal investigations for somebody using their identity to do criminal activities,” Chen added, per NBC News. “You would think some kinds of resources would have been spent, even if it came down to calling people individually.”
“They’re endemic at this point — they’re everywhere,” Adam Meyers, head of intelligence for Austin-based cyber security firm CrowdStrike, told The Dallas Express of data breaches around the world that have been traced back to the Chinese government.