Recently Hacked IRS Still Relies On Windows XP And 19-Year-Old Fraud-Sniffing Software
Given their importance, it'd be easy to believe that an institution such as the IRS would have sufficient security measures in place to protect our data - the tax information of everyone in the United States. As we discovered last week though, that's not at all the case.
We learned on Wednesday that at least 100,000 personal tax records were snatched illegally from the IRS, not with the intent of making a statement, but instead to steal identities. It didn't take long before someone got the blame, and that someone, or country, was Russia.
In case it hasn't been evident enough lately, Russia really doesn't like the U.S. right now. We learned last month that Russian hackers actually gained some limited access to president Obama's personal email, and last week, we saw it reiterate its plan to block all of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, if its anti-privacy laws continue to be ignored.
Flickr: Trey Ratcliff
It's for these reasons that security should be amped up, not down. According to CNN Money, the IRS is simply too underfunded in order to best protect us. It says that the agency has 10% less money and 13,300 fewer employees versus what it did in 2010, yet it handles a bigger workload. Even more damning in this particular case is that it spent $10 million less on cybersecurity in 2014 than it did in 2013, and further, its cybersecurity team has dropped from 410 in 2011 to 363 at the current time.
With limited funds, it's causing some ridiculously old software to linger. Such as Windows XP, which his end-of-life last April. EOL means no support whatsoever for consumers (although business can pay out the nose to receive extended support/patches from Microsoft), so to realize that the OS is still being heavily used in such a sensitive environment is still quite alarming. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen notes that 19-year-old fraud-catching software is even still being used today, despite it being completely ineffective.
The solution to this problem is obvious: the IRS needs more money. Whether it gets it is another story. The government isn't that different from a retail outlet: if money can be saved, sacrifices will be made.