If you were one of the more than 100,000 taxpayers whose confidential data was stolen by criminals who hacked into IRS computers, you might rightly feel that you were the victim of a serious security breach. But surprisingly, that’s not what the head of the Internal Revenue Service thinks.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen — while acknowledging that the private information of some 104,000 taxpayers has been stolen over the past few months — claims the theft is “not a security breach.” The Washington Times reports that Koskinen held a phone call with reporters on Tuesday to discuss the hacking that has reportedly gone on since February, but was caught only last week.
According to the Times report, despite the obvious failure of the IRS computer system to protect against unauthorized intrusion, Commissioner Koskinen insisted, “’This is not a security breach. Our basic information is secure.’”
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Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah was quick to pounce on Koskinen’s seeming denial of the truth in the security breach that reportedly allowed fraudsters to file false returns that cost the government millions of dollars. Hatch, according to The Washington Times, said the IRS has been warned repeatedly that it needed to do more to keep taxpayers’ private data safe and secure.
“That the IRS — home to highly sensitive information on every single American and every single company doing business here at home — was vulnerable to this attack is simply unacceptable,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.
The hackers are said to have gained access to taxpayers’ info by breaking into a new system called “Get Transcript,” which is designed to let individuals go online and retrieve their own tax records. Koskinen said the criminals used information they already knew about taxpayers — some of it supposedly gathered from social media sites — to fool the system into believing it was the taxpayer logging in.
That the IRS boss would find harsh critics among Republicans on Capitol Hill is not surprising in the least. As Western Journalism has reported, the agency head has recently been accused of lying to Congress because he repeatedly testified, under oath, that many thousands of Lois Lerner’s “missing” emails were lost forever and could not be recovered.
Another batch of Lerner’s “missing” emails has been found, according to a report on Fox News. And not just a handful of previously undisclosed communications, but thousands of emails that had been requested by congressional investigators but not provided to them. It was the Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration who reportedly turned up the emails that the head of the IRS had told Congress were lost forever.