IRS security tool goes down over security concerns
- By Zach Noble
- Mar 08, 2016
The IRS is once again suspending an online offering over security concerns, but this time the tool is itself a security tool.
The agency has suspended its Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) retrieval tool until further notice.
"The IRS is conducting a further review of the application that allows taxpayers to retrieve their IP PINs online and is looking at further strengthening the security features on the tool," the agency said in a March 7 statement.
The PINs are typically used to add a layer of security to the accounts of taxpayers who have suffered identity theft.
The concerns might have arisen over the use of knowledge-based security, which proved to be the flaw that compromised IRS' "Get Transcript" app last year. An IRS spokeswoman declined to confirm whether the IP PIN tool also relied on knowledge-based authentication -- which forces users to answer personal questions for which hackers can often Google the answers -- but the Government Accountability Office dinged the IRS for using the method for IP PIN retrieval in 2015.
Taxpayers use an IP PIN for a single filing year and receive a letter from the IRS each year with a new six-digit number, an IRS spokeswoman confirmed. In this tax-filing season so far, the IRS has mailed out roughly 2.7 million IP PINs, and 130,000 people have tried to use the online tool to retrieve IP PINs they'd lost, according to the IRS.
"You would be amazed," an IRS spokeswoman said, noting the large number of taxpayers who lose their single-use PINs.
Taxpayers will need to call the IRS to retrieve lost IP PINs. In some cases, taxpayers who have not yet received an IP PIN might be able to skip the number this year, the agency said.
Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.
Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.
Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.
Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.