Is someone compiling information on federal employees?

The recently reported hacker attack on a contractor that works on the Thrift Savings Plan could be a sign of more trouble to come, according to reports.

As reported in NextGov, the target of the attack was Serco, a contractor to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. The attack resulted in unauthorized access to 123,000 TSP accounts and exposed the Social Security numbers of those account holders. It happened in July 2011, but the board learned of it from the FBI on April 11, 2012.

Now, reports Aliya Sternstein, cybersecurity experts worry that it could have just been the vanguard of a new wave of attacks against government computers.

One source that Sternstein cited was James Lewis, a cybersecurity analyst who advises the Obama administration and Congress. Lewis said he has the impression that “at least one smart country is building a database on [U.S. government] employees, using things like TSP and social networks.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wants to know why the retirement board waited until late May to inform Congress of the breach.

Writing in the Federal Times, Stephen Losey reports the board reported the attack to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 25. It reported it to the public the same day. Collins is the ranking Republican on the committee.

According to Losey’s report, it’s not clear when the FBI discovered the breach or why it waited until April 11 to inform the board.

As for the further delay in reporting to Congress and the public, Losey cited FRTIB external affairs director Kim Weaver, who said the data the FBI provided in April was unreadable at first.

“We had some data that was just strings of numbers," Weaver said in the Times article. "You couldn't tell what was a Social Security number, what was the day of the month, what was a payment amount, so it took quite a bit of time to get the data into a format where we could figure out the information."

About the Author

Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.

Featured

  • Defense
    Soldiers from the Old Guard test the second iteration of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) capability set during an exercise at Fort Belvoir, VA in Fall 2019. Photo by Courtney Bacon

    IVAS and the future of defense acquisition

    The Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System has been in the works for years, but the potentially multibillion deal could mark a paradigm shift in how the Defense Department buys and leverages technology.

  • Cybersecurity
    Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff)

    Mayorkas announces cyber 'sprints' on ransomware, ICS, workforce

    The Homeland Security secretary announced a series of focused efforts to address issues around ransomware, critical infrastructure and the agency's workforce that will all be launched in the coming weeks.

Stay Connected