Uncle Sam’s Security Woes

(From Kiplinger Tech Letter)

Security flaws in federal computer systems aren’t going away anytime soon. A massive data breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management exposed highly sensitive personal information of up to 4 million federal workers. Though the breach took place in December, OPM only learned about it in April, and the agency started notifying affected employees June 8. The breach is likely the most significant one ever of a federal network. If it had happened at a private company, there’s little doubt that the Federal Trade Commission would be launching an investigation.

Before OPM, a recent IRS hack led to stolen tax information on 1040 filers.

Federal breaches spell more business for credit monitoring firms and real-time cybersecurity software. Look for such companies to land major contracts with Uncle Sam in coming years. Companies offering credit and identity monitoring include Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Still, full-fledged security improvements of federal IT systems will take years to pan out. In the best-case scenario, the government would launch a comprehensive cybersecurity audit of all federal agencies. But odds of that are slim. “Although I’m hopeful the U.S. government would conduct a review, I’m not going to hold my breath,” says Carrie Cordero, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and director of national security studies at Georgetown University Law Center. There will be more calls from members of Congress to shore up federal IT systems. Expect more revelations in coming months that government computer systems are often outdated and that agencies’ cybersecurity practices are shoddy.

—–Given that the IRS’ budget has been cut consistently, along with most governmental agencies, it is not surprising that it’s system is a little out of date. In fact, I know that its coding is waaaaayyyy behind the times. HOWEVER, tax returns are going to be input into its system in one way or another. The safest way to do that is still to electronically file your return. At least then you know that it has been input correctly, received and accepted without problems, and your refund (hopefully!!!) is on its way. At least then you find out quickly that no one else has tried to use your social security number (or that of one of your dependents) to file a return. Just make sure if you are not the one doing the filing, that whoever you choose is reputable, uses a secure router and safeguards your information. Can’t be too careful out there. —Susan

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