recommended reading

IRS Took Down FAFSA-Autofill Tool to Prevent Identity Theft

The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington.

The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington. // Susan Walsh/AP File Photo

An online tool that auto-filled tax data for federal student loan applications has been temporarily removed in an effort to stave off identity thieves.

The Internal Revenue Service is suspending the "Data Retrieval" feature on its online Free Application for Federal Student Aid, meaning applicants will need to copy their financial information from tax returns or from the software they use to file their taxes, according to the IRS. The same tool was used for the income-driven repayment application process.

The tool could be down for several weeks, according to an IRS announcement. The agency said it's trying to fix the problem "as quickly as possible."

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

The suspension of the Data Retrieval Tool was a precaution "following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves."

The IRS and Federal Student Aid together are investigating those risks, and also collaborating on a way to make the DRT more secure from potential thieves. The IRS announcement called the problem "relatively isolated" and noted "no additional action is needed by taxpayers or people using these applications."

IRS recommended applicants unable to get a copy of their tax returns request a transcript through the IRS site, which requires them to verify their identities.

The IRS has struggled with cybersecurity problems in the past; the Government Accountability Office has repeatedly pointed out glaring security flaws in the agency's cyber protocol, including that employee passwords weren't secure enough and that user passwords often didn't expire at regular intervals, potentially putting taxpayer information at risk.

Threatwatch Alert

Software vulnerability

Malware Has a New Hiding Place: Subtitles

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
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

  • 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.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

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

  • 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.


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