How to Avoid the IRS' Technology Fumbles

John Koskinen, IRS Commisioner

John Koskinen, IRS Commisioner House subcommittee on Oversight and Reform

Groups says it all boils down to an IT management issue.

The Internal Revenue Service has had difficulty accounting for a hard drive it says it destroyed and backup tapes that may or may not have been saved -- a situation that has sounded security alarms for some who see information technology management problems throughout government.

“You can’t secure what you don’t know that you have,” said Barbara Rembiesa, president of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, Inc., a professional association that offers certifications and best practices in IT management.

Rembiesa has called for a governmentwide solution to IT problems that the IRS is not the only agency to face.

“Each agency is going to have their technology piece a little different but the actual processes -- their documentation, their disposal, acquisitions -- all of those processes should be under one governing agency,” she told Nextgov. “The government cannot operate without technology, so they need to be managing that technology as a government.”

The IRS last month infuriated Republicans when it said it had lost about two years' worth of archived emails belonging to Lois Lerner, formerly the head of the agency's tax-exempt division, which has been accused of targeting conservative groups for unfair scrutiny. The emails were saved on her computer’s hard drive, which was wiped clean -- degaussed -- and sent to a recycling contractor after crashing in 2011, the agency said in court documents filed Friday. No certificate of destruction has been made public -- documentation Rembiesa said the agency should have had.

The emails had been saved on temporary back-up disks that were written over about six months later, officials have said. But IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane told congressional investigators last week the tapes may still exist.  

“They need to start securing this data and they need to get a handle on managing technology assets," Rembiesa said. "Technology’s here to stay.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told lawmakers Wednesday in response to their subpoenas, the agency had produced nearly 1 million documents to congressional committees cleared to see taxpayer information and more than 700,000 redacted documents for other committees.

Rembiesa noted the agency is not the first to be in the spotlight for its technology blunders. The FBI lost over 150 laptops in 2007, including 10 with classified information, and every administration since the advent of email has lost some of them. 

“I think if you go into just about any agency and ask them to provide something like this they would have trouble,” she said. Employee training and better communication about policies and best practices are the first steps she would take right now to begin to remedy the problem, she added. 

The agency on Monday said it was “refreshing IRS employees’ awareness of existing policies and procedures” for handling sensitive information as it sought a contractor to help properly dispose of thousands of hard drives and other storage devices amassed since 2008.

Koskinen last month described the agency’s IT system as a "Model T with a very nice GPS system and a sound system and a redone engine, but it’s still a Model T."

Rembiesa said this case is more about management than technology.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.