Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

8/19/2015
08:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

IRS Get Transcript Breach Triples In Scope

Breach reported in May much larger than initially thought

Data breach news just keeps getting worse and worse for the federal government this summer. The latest blow comes this week with the announcement from the IRS that the breach in its Get Transcript application was three times worse than initially reported.

First disclosed in May, the breach in question is now believed to have exposed the full tax account records of 330,000 taxpayers, far more than the 100,000 first believed to have been affected.

"The information accessed by the attackers is some of the most sensitive that can relate to a person, and seeing the ease at which attackers can access it is frustrating on multiple levels," says Josh Cannell, security researcher for Malwarebytes Labs. "Knowing that there are in fact more victims than originally thought is just a good reminder that large entities like the IRS are not immune to attack.”

According to the IRS, attackers were able to game the online system designed to give taxpayers full transcripts of previous year's tax returns by using stolen information about taxpayers from other sources. This included information like Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, and street address, all of which were used as authenticators for logging into the system.

“This attack highlights the fact that Big Data isn’t just something utilized by legitimate businesses, but also cyber criminals and fraudsters. The data used to perpetrate this attack was originally harvested from multiple sources, including open source data and data from other breaches," says Ken Westin, senior security analyst for Tripwire. "In this case, the criminals were able to quickly correlate disparate data sets to create complete profiles; once this was completed, they then automated the IRS ‘Get Transcript; form submission to extract additional information that can then be used to file fraudulent tax returns.”

The IRS has speculated that the motivation behind the attacks was likely driven by plans to file fraudulent tax returns during the upcoming 2016 filing season. Security experts warn of even wider spread consequences given the depth of information afforded by an IRS transcript.

"This is scary, especially given the compounding nature of the IRS breach," says Eric Chiu, president of HyTrust. "These profiles can be used to open new accounts, siphon funds and ultimately steal the identities of the victims."

While the agency has put into place special PINs to further authenticate at-risk taxpayers as they file their returns next year, security experts aren't holding their breath.

"Unfortunately, attackers are outsmarting systems put in place to protect private information, and the cost is very heavy," Cannell says. "It will be interesting to see if the special identify protection PIN provided by the IRS to affected taxpayers will be enough to stop more fraudulent returns in the future. As many cyber-criminals are masters of social engineering, they are skilled at acquiring the information they're seeking, and it's enough to make you wonder if they'll devise a scheme to get this PIN number and continue to launder money from the government."

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
A Startup With NSA Roots Wants Silently Disarming Cyberattacks on the Wire to Become the Norm
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  5/11/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
Cybersecurity: What Is Truly Essential?
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  5/12/2021
Commentary
3 Cybersecurity Myths to Bust
Etay Maor, Sr. Director Security Strategy at Cato Networks,  5/11/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Google Maps is taking "interactive" to a whole new level!
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-18194
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
Cross Site Scripting (XSS) in emlog v6.0.0 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code by adding a crafted script as a link to a new blog post.
CVE-2020-18195
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) in Pluck CMS v4.7.9 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code and delete a specific article via the component " /admin.php?action=page."
CVE-2020-18198
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) in Pluck CMS v4.7.9 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code and delete specific images via the component " /admin.php?action=images."
CVE-2020-21831
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
A heap based buffer overflow vulnerability exists in GNU LibreDWG 0.10 via read_2004_section_handles ../../src/decode.c:2637.
CVE-2020-21842
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-17
A heap based buffer overflow vulnerability exists in GNU LibreDWG 0.10 via read_2004_section_revhistory ../../src/decode.c:3051.