Today, the Internal Revenue Service announced that their recent data breach affects more than twice as many taxpayers. Which certainly should leave many of us concerned.
However, from a computing security standpoint, this horrible incident also points out a threat faced by many users worldwide…whether you are a business owner or a consumer.
While the details of the IRS breach are still being investigated, it would seem apparent that the source of the attack was an organized group seeking to get their hands on fraudulent tax refunds. Unfortunately, organized criminals seeking to exploit financial information is an increasingly growing threat for small businesses and individuals alike.
An additional 220,000 potential victims had information stolen from an IRS website as part of a sophisticated scheme to use stolen identities to claim fraudulent tax refunds, the IRS said Monday. The revelation more than doubles the total number of potential victims, to 334,000.
Another serious issue at the IRS is also shared by many computer users worldwide. It turns out that many computers at the federal agency are still running Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft. (Please see our series of posts on updating Windows for more information.) In fact, the IRS is paying substantial fees to Microsoft (yup, your tax dollars) for special extended support. Which puts those of you still running the outdated operating system at a distinct disadvantage!
The IRS blamed this breach on having fewer employees and they are still using Windows XP which is so old, Microsoft no longer supports it.
The whole situation at the IRS is distressing, but we should all consider this a wake up call to the fact that small businesses and individuals face many of the same threats as the federal government and other major organizations.