Obama Asks for 72 Percent Raise in IRS Cyber Funding to Combat ID Thieves


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White House proposes pushing $242 million into agency data analysis, IT controls and victim support, among other things.

This story has been updated.

A flood of cybersecurity funding could rush into the Internal Revenue Service in fiscal 2016 -- under an updated budget document from the White House that includes a 72 percent raise in information security dollars. 

Following raids on taxpayer coffers by identity thieves, the Obama administration would like to push $242 million into agency data analysis, IT controls and victim support, among other things, according to new detailed spending figures.

In May, IRS officials disclosed that ID thieves gamed an IRS online tool to pull sensitive financial data on 100,000 taxpayers and ultimately claim about $39 million in their names. The tax agency unplugged the service, called Get Transcript, and it remains offline. 

With new money, "the IRS would take especially aggressive steps to fight identity theft and stolen identity refund fraud," budget documents state. "These include systems improvements and new information sharing with states and industry to help detect and prevent identity theft before tax refunds are paid."

The tax agency doled out $5.8 billion to fraudsters in 2013, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The IRS has long asserted that budget cuts are stymieing policing, pointing to $1.2 billion in cuts since 2010.

The new 2016 funding also would go toward comprehensive taxpayer account recovery services and law enforcement crackdowns on international bad guys.

Aside from buttressing IRS systems, the federal government's expected entire $14 billion cyber tab would deploy targeted controls at the departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Commerce and Justice.

HHS is home to the Obamacare portal HealthCare.gov, which some security experts have said could double as a gateway for fraudsters if not continuously monitored. 

Over the past year, HHS has seen a spike in cyber threats, according to White House officials. Funding in 2016 would grow to $262 million, a 23 percent increase over 2015. That money would partly fund a "Computer Security Incident Response Center" composed of advanced technologies to obtain a full picture of vulnerabilities departmentwide.

"These technologies provide HHS situational awareness of its cybersecurity posture and allow HHS’ operating divisions to quickly share security incident information in order to coordinate strong response and recovery activities," officials said in budget documents.  

VA would see cyber funds increase by 15.5 percent since last year, to total $180.3 million. That spending would, in part, better enable VA to detect security holes before they are exploited and continue operations when vulnerabilities are discovered.

The department's cyber program also includes "funding for privacy and records management, business continuity support in case of emergency, field security services at remote locations, and identity and credential management," administration officials said.

(Image via Melpomene/ Shutterstock.com)