TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: USDA Now Reports Computer Break in; 26,000 Identity Thefts

USDA Now Reports Computer Break in; 26,000 Identity Thefts

Reuters News Wire (
Thu, 22 Jun 2006 23:05:01 -0500

USDA says hacker may have stolen employees' data

A computer hacker may have stolen "personal identity information" for
26,000 current and former Agriculture Department headquarters
employees, agency officials said.

USDA announced the security breach shortly before midnight on
Wednesday, nearly three weeks after it occurred. It offered one year
of free credit-monitoring services to the potentially affected

The agency said that its computer systems were illegally accessed
during the first weekend of June. Officials said that at first they
thought the personal information was still protected, but now they are
not sure the data is safe.

At risk are the names, social security numbers and photos of USDA
headquarters employees and contractors. The 26,000 names are equal to
one-fourth of USDA's work force. The information was in the same
database as work site information that is open to the public.

USDA said it contacted "appropriate law enforcement agencies" and its
inspector general was conducting an investigation as well.

This marks the latest security breach of personal data in the U.S.
government. In May, a computer with private data on more than 26
million military personnel was stolen from the home of a Veterans
Affairs Department employee. Identity theft and stolen laptops is a
regular affair in recent months.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted on Thursday to give that
department $160 million to pay for one year of free credit monitoring
for affected veterans. Senators said the service, similar to what USDA
offered, would cost $18.50 per person.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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