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Internal Revenue Service Misplaces Over 500 Laptop Computers

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According to the United States Treasury Department Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service has had some problems protecting sensitive taxpayer information. Apparently between 2003 and 2006, almost 500 laptop computers belonging to the Internal Revenue Service were lost or stolen which may have exposed personal information of approximately 6000 taxpayers to identity thieves.

Amazingly, the number of laptop computers lost or stolen has actually dropped since 2002! According to an article in the on-line publication Infoworld,

In Jan. 2002, the IRS admitted in a similar audit that it had lost or misplaced some 2,332 laptops, desktops and servers over the previous 36 months.

According to a report prepared by the Inspector General, problems with the Internal Revenue Service data and identity theft prevention programs are serious and need improvement:

Significant weaknesses in access controls and other information security controls continue to threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IRS’s financial and tax processing systems and information. For example, IRS has not implemented effective access controls related to user identification and authentication, authorization, cryptography, audit and monitoring, physical security, and other information security controls. These weaknesses could impair IRS’s ability to perform vital functions and increase the risk of unauthorized disclosure, modification, or destruction of financial and sensitive taxpayer information. Accordingly, GAO has reported a material weakness in IRS’s internal controls over its financial and tax processing systems.

In light of the recent problems with the Veterans Administration data and other high profile data theft breaches, hopefully the Internal Revenue Service will take better care of its computer systems. With just a few weeks to go before tax returns must be filed, I’d like to know that my taxpayer data remains safe and confidential. Don’t you?