News in Brief

Bigger IRS breach, institutionalizing PIF, and FAA drones and glitches

Shutterstock image: password security.

IRS: 390,000 more taxpayers exposed in breach

Following the news in May that more than 100,000 tax returns had been exposed in a breach of the IRS website's "Get Transcript" application, the beleaguered agency conducted an extensive review of the 2015 filing season and announced on Aug. 17 that an additional 390,000 people had been affected.

The original breach exposed 114,000 prior-year tax returns as hackers cracked knowledge-based security questions, and it included 111,000 failed attempts, the IRS said.

After the review, officials said another 220,000 taxpayers had had their prior-year tax returns exposed, while 170,000 more had been the targets of unsuccessful attempts to access their information.

That brings the total number of people affected to more than 600,000.

The IRS promised to notify taxpayers whose returns had been exposed and those who were unsuccessfully targeted.

"The IRS will begin mailing [notification] letters in the next few days," the agency said in a statement, adding that credit monitoring and Identity Protection Personal Identification Numbers would be available for those affected. "The IRS takes the security of taxpayer data extremely seriously, and we are working to continue to strengthen security for 'Get Transcript,' including by enhancing taxpayer-identity authentication protocols."

Obama seeks to institutionalize Presidential Innovation Fellows program

President Barack Obama wants his program for tech-savvy professionals who are enthusiastic about public service to continue after he leaves the Oval Office.

Obama signed an executive order on Aug. 17 to institutionalize the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which was launched as a pilot in August 2012.

The executive order houses PIF program within the General Services Administration, where it will serve departments and agencies through the Executive Branch. The program will have a director and a newly established advisory board to guide it.

The program has been administered as a partnership among the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, and GSA.

The program has recruited 96 tech developers and entrepreneurs from the private sector to team up with government workers on a wide array of federal programs. The White House said 35 fellows have stayed on in federal positions past their 12-month PIF appointments.

Fellows have worked on MyUSA, open-data initiatives, the launch of 18F and the U.S. Digital Service, and the Department of Veterans Affairs' modernization team.

The announcement came as the White House accepted six new fellows to the program: Adam Bonnifield, co-founder of Spinnakr; Ross Darkin, who has worked at Upstart Network and BrightPoint Security; Luke Keller, a product designer and strategist; Kate McCall-Kiley, who has worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, Capital One and Design for America; Josh Patterson, a data scientist and economist at Accenture Technology Labs; and Alexandria Pelletier, a product manager who served as the digital lead for the Innovation Acceleration Program at Boston Children's Hospital.

GAO: U.S. drone rules progressing, although not as fast as some countries

The Federal Aviation Administration's plans to integrate unmanned aerial system flights into the national airspace are progressing well, according to a new review by the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO study cited the FAA's increasing case-by-case approvals for UAS operations as a good sign the agency is moving ahead. The number of such approvals has steadily increased every year since 2010, and in the past year, those approvals have included commercial UAS for the first time. GAO auditors also said the FAA has proposed rules for vehicles that weigh less than 55 pounds, which have emerging applications in many commercial markets.

Even with the progress, however, GAO said other countries -- including Australia, Canada, France and the United Kingdom -- already have well-established UAS regulations. Canada and France allow more commercial operations than the U.S., even though regulations are similar in all three countries.

The fact that the FAA will not issue a final rule for the vehicles' use until late 2016 or early 2017 could put the United States at a competitive disadvantage because in the meantime, "rules in some of these countries continue to evolve," the GAO report states.

FAA blames software upgrade for service disruption

Federal Aviation Administration officials said a software upgrade at a radar facility in Leesburg, Va., is the most likely culprit behind the delays of thousands of flights from East Coast airports on Aug. 15.

Officials said in a statement that air traffic operations had returned to normal a day after thousands of airline passengers were stranded at airports from New York to Florida because an air traffic control system at the facility that processes flight plans stopped working. They said the system was functioning after they disabled new features implemented with the software upgrade.

The FAA said there was no indication the glitch was related to previous problems with its new En Route Automation Modernization system, which was put into service in March to replace the 40-year-old En Route Host computer and backup system at 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers nationwide.

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