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News

IRS hack exposes personally identifiable information

Sophos : 01 June, 2015  (Technical Article)
Security company Sophos comments on the recent breach experienced by the US Inland Revenue Service exposing personal tax payer information
IRS hack exposes personally identifiable information

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US government agency that collects American taxes, has been targeted by criminals who broke into about 100,000 tax histories, giving the crooks access to personally identifiable information (PII) from the attacked accounts.

It seems that the attackers already had some PII about their victims in order to be able to logon in the first place, which somewhat mitigates the severity of the attack. But many taxpayers submit tax returns covering other people, such as spouses and dependent children, so each account breached could easily lead to exposure of yet more PII.

If you were one of those definitely affected, the IRS will contact you by snail mail. Don't fall for emails that invite you to click through to "rectify" any problems.

You might also want to apply for a credit freeze to force credit companies to contact you personally before dealing with credit applications in your name. That prevents crooks getting credit simply by applying online using your stolen PII.

The IRS offers a form of two-factor authentication called the Identify Protection PIN (IP PIN), a six-digit code that you need to enter before your online tax return will be accepted. That helps to prevent crooks with access to your account from claiming fraudulent tax returns as if they were you.

Unfortunately, the IP PIN service is not yet available to all taxpayers. (Ironically, you *are* automatically eligible for an IP PIN if you have already been a victim of identity theft.)

Let's hope the IRS will roll out this feature to any taxpayer who wants to use it in the hope of preventing tax refund fraud in the first place, not merely reacting after it has happened.

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