According to the national outlet NHK, which first reported that an unidentified person was a contractor working with the city of Amagasaki, specifically tasked with dispersing subsidies to residents that were hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Details about those specific residents—and the rest of Amagasaki’s 465,177 taxpayers—were held on a single flash drive, which somehow found its way into a bag that he took with him for a Wednesday bender.
After drinking for several hours, he woke up on the street nearby the bar. The bag and flash drive were gone. There was valuable data on the drive. At the very least it included:
- Basic information for all 460,517 Amagasaki citizens—including their names, birthdays, addresses, genders, and “date of becoming a resident.”
- Tax information for about 360,573 residents, along with intel about which tens of thousands of households were given certain tax exemptions.
- Account information from about 86,000 households receiving welfare benefits, child support, or both.
It will be quite a conundrum if the information is leaked.
While the report notes that the files on that USB were encrypted and password-protected, people were still (rightfully) agitated. Within two days of that incident report going out, local reports noted the city’s lines were flooded with over 30,000 calls and complaints from citizens worried that this data might be used for identity theft or fraud. A notice quickly went up to alert people about potential scammers posing as local officials, and extorting people out of cash to get their data back.
Later, the police were able to find the bad. There was no proof that anyone tried to crack into that USB or change the password, officials said. The contracting company issued a public apology in the local Amagasaki press, and the city’s mayor did the same.