A state computer containing names, Social Security numbers and bank account information for 70,000 Vermont residents was hacked into by a remote user sometime before early December, the state said Monday.
It is possible that the information has been used illicitly, though there is no indication of it, said Human Services Secretary Cynthia LaWare.
The state plans to send letters to the affected individuals urging them to monitor their bank accounts. It will also offer to pay for credit monitoring.
The Human Services computer was used as a tool to track non-custodial parents who owe back child support. The state and a number of banks exchanged financial information on the computer, which was taken out of service in early December after technicians discovered what they thought was a computer virus.
An examination completed last week revealed that the computer had been taken over by a remote user, possibly to relay video or launch attacks on other users, officials said. An episode of the television show "Bones" was found on the machine.
The computer remains offline, officials said.
About 12,000 of the affected individuals owed back child support. The rest of the names _ about 58,800 people _ were supplied to the state by the New England Federal Credit Union, which shared customer information with the understanding that only the data on child support debtors would be used.
New England Federal CEO David Bard said the 58,800 names represent almost the entire membership of the Williston-based credit union.
"We have a number of people who are going to be very frustrated and unsettled by this breach," Bard said. "This never should have happened."
LaWare said the state kept the information on the computer even though it wasn't needed. She couldn't explain why.
About 2,800 customers from eight additional banks and credit unions were also affected, the state said.