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.

Risk

Ninth State Department Insider Found Guilty Of Illegal Database Access

File clerk who snooped passport files of celebrities is latest to be discovered in two-year investigation

A State Department employee was sentenced yesterday to 12 months of probation for illegally accessing more than 60 confidential passport application files, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Debra Sue Brown, 47, of Oxon Hill, Md., was also ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola in the District of Columbia to perform 50 hours of community service. Brown pleaded guilty on Dec. 11, 2009, to a one-count criminal information charging her with unauthorized computer access.

According to court documents, Brown has worked full-time for the State Department since September 1995 as a file clerk and a file assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. In pleading guilty, Brown admitted she had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of her job, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS), which contains all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994.

The imaged passport applications on PIERS contain, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant, as well as personal information, such as the applicant's full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse's name, and emergency contact information.

These confidential files are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by State Department employees is strictly limited to official government duties.

Brown admitted that between March 25, 2005, and Feb. 7, 2008, she logged onto the PIERS database and repeatedly searched for and viewed the passport applications of more than 60 celebrities and their families -- actors, comedians, professional athletes, musicians, and other individuals identified in the press -- as well as personal friends and acquaintances.

Brown admitted she had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, and that her sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity.

To date, nine current or former State Department employees or contractors, including Brown, have pleaded guilty in this continuing investigation. The other eight insiders each accessed at least 50 confidential passport files; the worst offender accessed nearly 200. All of the nine offenders were given sentences of probation and community service.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Navigating Security in the Cloud
Diya Jolly, Chief Product Officer, Okta,  12/4/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19642
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
On SuperMicro X8STi-F motherboards with IPMI firmware 2.06 and BIOS 02.68, the Virtual Media feature allows OS Command Injection by authenticated attackers who can send HTTP requests to the IPMI IP address. This requires a POST to /rpc/setvmdrive.asp with shell metacharacters in ShareHost or ShareNa...
CVE-2019-19637
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
An issue was discovered in libsixel 1.8.2. There is an integer overflow in the function sixel_decode_raw_impl at fromsixel.c.
CVE-2019-19638
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
An issue was discovered in libsixel 1.8.2. There is a heap-based buffer overflow in the function load_pnm at frompnm.c, due to an integer overflow.
CVE-2019-19635
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
An issue was discovered in libsixel 1.8.2. There is a heap-based buffer overflow in the function sixel_decode_raw_impl at fromsixel.c.
CVE-2019-19636
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-08
An issue was discovered in libsixel 1.8.2. There is an integer overflow in the function sixel_encode_body at tosixel.c.