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.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Mon, Jun 4, 2012 FCW News Editor

The FBI notified the Board on April 11, 2012. I have updated the article to be more clear.

Mon, Jun 4, 2012

It happened in July 2011, but the board learned of it from the FBI on April 11. How were they notified before it happened?

Thu, May 31, 2012

I want to know why if the people whose SSNs were compromised were offered free credit monitoring for a year. I know we do when we have a breeh.

Wed, May 30, 2012 James Estrada

Why do we think it's a foreign country and not an American with an anti-federal-employee agenda? Lord knows there's been enough anti-federal-employee sentiment out there.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group