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DNR IDs Former Employee Behind Illegal Data Breach

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources identified John A. Hunt as the former employee who viewed the data of 5,000 Minnesotans while off-the-clock, and without any job-related purpose.

Hunt, the Enforcement Division’s administrative manager, was discharged on Jan. 11, according to the DNR.

Females made up 90 percent of the driver’s licenses and motor vehicle records he viewed. He also looked up the records of celebrities, politicians, professional athletes, and TV personalities, including WCCO’s Natalie Kane.

“It’s kind of disturbing,” Kane said. “I just don’t understand the motivation at all.”

Investigations showed Hunt queried about 11,800 driver’s license and motor vehicle records during off-duty hours between January 2008 and October 2012. And some were queried more than once.

There is no indication, the DNR said, that the viewed data was sold, disclosed to others, or used for criminal purposes. No social security numbers or other DNR-related license or registration data was involved.

Hunt was discharged because unauthorized access of the database is a violation of state and federal law, as well as DNR policy and the agency’s standards of behavior.

“This employee not only violated the law, but betrayed the trust of the agency, his supervisors, and fellow employees,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr in a statement. “His behavior does not meet the high standards of integrity that we expect from our law enforcement officers or from all employees.”

Landwehr said the agency is conducting a top-to-bottom review of DNR employee access to the DVS data and redoubling the employee training that is required to access the data.

One DNR employee, Chris Niskanen, a department spokesperson, had his records viewed by Hunt. And since there seems to be no criminal motivation, he just asks: why?

“There’s a great deal of disappointment…a sense of betrayal among some of the employees here,” Niskanen said.

Officials say Hunt was familiar with the data base, and knew the rules more than anyone.

Just this week, two lawmakers introduced legislation that would place stiffer penalties on public employees who misuse data. The DNR says they would like to be part of talk with lawmakers.

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