Cybersecurity

25,000 affected by USIS breach

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The contractor that does background checks for the Department of Homeland Security has notified DHS that as many as 25,000 federal employees may be affected by a security breach at the company earlier in August, according to reports.

Department officials told Reuters on Aug. 22 that it plans to notify over the coming days approximately 25,000 employees that they may be "impacted" by the computer breach at Falls Church, Va.-based U.S. Investigations Services over the coming days.

USIS, a major provider of background checks for DHS and other federal agencies, said Aug. 6 that it suffered a data breach that "has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack." The firm said it spotted the attack on its own and notified the Office of Personnel Management and other agencies right away. USIS has hired a computer forensics firm to investigate the incident.

At the time of the initial announcement by USIS, neither the company nor DHS specified the scale of the theft of employees' personal information.

DHS has suspended work with USIS until security is restored.

Some members of Congress have questioned why USIS is still being awarded federal contracts after the Justice Department joined a civil lawsuit in January alleging the firm left at least 665,000 background checks incomplete over a 4 1/2-year period. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sent a letter last month to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson questioning the wisdom of awarding USIS a potentially $190-million contract with Citizenship and Immigration Services.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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