Hackers are hell bent on stealing tax refunds. On Tuesday the IRS announced an attack that occurred last month in which cyber criminals were able to steal taxpayer identification numbers before the Internal Revenue Service detected and shut down the attack. Hackers stole customer “Electronic Filing PINs,” meant to ensure information security. These PINs would enable hackers to file fraudulent tax returns.
More and more Americans are filing their taxes online. Officials expect 80 percent of the 150 million returns will be filed online this tax season. As a result the number of attempts by hackers to file fake returns and steal tax refunds is on the rise.
In a statement the IRS said that the hackers used a sophisticated automated software that used more than 450,000 stolen Social Security numbers to try to generate e-filing PINs. Even though the attack was stopped they were successful in securing about 100,000 PINS.
According to the IRS the SSN’s were “stolen elsewhere outside the IRS.” The agency added, “no personal taxpayer data was compromised or disclosed” by its systems. The IRS said it will notify taxpayers affected by the attack and will flag their accounts to guard against identity theft.
The IRS and the federal government are in possession of incredible amounts of personal data of U.S. citizens, Yet the government appears almost helpless to protect this data from cyber theives. Last year alone the government lost the data, including electronic finger print files, of over 20 million Americans in a historic data breach of the Office of Personnel Management.
On Tuesday President Barack Obama proposed to spend $19 billion on more-secure technology for the government. If approved by Congress the money would be used to recruit cyber security experts, reducing reliance on unsafe items like SSNs, and overhauling the government’s computers.