More than 100,000 taxpayers had their tax information stolen in a recent IRS theft, according to the IRS.
The cyber-security breach—which involved 200,000 attempts at taxpayer information from February to mid-May via a system called Get Transcript that requires knowledge about a taxpayer, such as a Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status, address, or high school mascot—is believed by the IRS to have originated in Russia.
It is believed that the individual taxpayer information needed to gain access via the Get Transcript system was obtained via social media, according to the IRS.
The stolen information was used to file US$50 million in fraudulent tax refunds, according to the IRS.
“This is not a hack in the normal sense of people just running around looking for passwords and trying to hack into the system. These are a set of people who are, as to say, imposters of the taxpayer. They weren’t getting any data from us. They showed up with all the information and then tried to use it as best they could,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Desperate to downplay the drastic consequences of such a security breach, the IRS stated, “During this filing season, taxpayers successfully and safely downloaded a total of approximately 23 million transcripts.” The agency also stated that the breach did not involve its main computer system that handles tax filing submission, saying that the main computer system “remains secure.”
The Get Transcript system involved in the IRS theft has been taken down, according to the IRS. The IRS also said that it is notifying those whose tax information may have been stolen and is providing them with free credit monitoring.
Earlier this year it was reported that Russian hackers recently hacked the White House and State Department computer systems as well.
The number of security incidents involving personally identifiable information that federal agencies reported to the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber unit increased from 10,481 in 2009 to 27,624 in 2014, according to the Government Accountability Office.