recommended reading

How the IRS Is Leaving Your Financial Data Unprotected

bluecrayola/Shutterstock.com

The tax agency needs to better audit its own accounts, according to the Government Accountability Office. GAO officials during the past year discovered that Internal Revenue Service was not sufficiently monitoring databases for abnormal activity that could indicate a breach. They also found poor encryption on key agency systems.

In addition, this is the seventh consecutive year the IRS has failed to patch security vulnerabilities that could compromise financial data, a review of GAO reports dating back to 2007 reveals. 

"Serious weaknesses remain that could affect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of financial and sensitive taxpayer data," Nancy R. Kingsbury, GAO managing director for applied research and methods, and Gregory C. Wilshusen, GAO director for information security issues, wrote in a new report

The IRS did not apply critical patches in a timely fashion to multiple systems, including programs for procurement and email, the auditors said. In addition, the agency was running unsupported software on workstations and databases that developers are not even issuing security fixes for anymore. 

GAO officials also noticed that systems handling transfers of financial data were not configured to encrypt login information.

This week’s report acknowledges longstanding problems the IRS has had with monitoring system activity and with physically securing data.

"Despite ongoing efforts dating back to 2007, IRS’s enterprisewide mainframe security monitoring program" has not provided log reports to system operators, the auditors wrote.

At two of the three computing centers GAO evaluated, officials did not consistently feel the need to block access to restricted areas for individuals who no longer needed entry. Auditors had made a recommendation in fiscal 2011 to fix this issue.

Last year, GAO documented similar weaknesses.

Auditors noted some improvements, including the resolution of certain system control deficiencies, as well as upgraded software for the agency's administrative accounting system. 

In written responses to GAO, IRS officials said they are dedicated to improving the agency's data protections. 

"The security and privacy of all taxpayer information is of the utmost importance to us," IRS chief John Koskinen wrote on April 1. "We appreciate your continued support and guidance," and look forward "to working with you to develop appropriate measures." 

(Image via bluecrayola/Shutterstock.com)

Threatwatch Alert

Social Media Takeover

Qatar News Agency Says Hackers Published Fake Stories

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.