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US Homeland Security Employee Data Breach Revealed

January 10, 2018

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that some personal information of current and former employees, and anyone involved in an on-going investigation, might have been stolen. The data breach is the result of unauthorized access by a former employee.


How many people have been hit in the data breach?

The DHS actually discovered the incident back in May of 2017. It said that the incident’s relationship with an ongoing criminal investigation made the issue very complex and sensitive, hence the long delay in the announcement of the hack. More than 200,000 former and current staff members of the department won’t be pleased it’s taken so long for them to be notified. The DHS said it was not a typical data breach and cyber crime was not the intention of the incident. Nevertheless, the department is offering 18 months of free credit monitoring to those affected.

For those whose data was exposed because they were part of on-going investigations, the situation is much worse. The DHS says it’s unable to reveal the individuals affected or notify them. These people could be subjects, witnesses and complainants, with anything from their name, address, phone number, social security number being exposed. Even the amount of people affected in this branch of the data breach is unknown.

Tightening up security

The DHS said that a former employee had an unauthorized copy of the office’s investigative management system.

It can be quite easy to get worked up about all the external threats and potential cyber attacks you might face, whether it be Ransomware or DDoS attacks, but the insider threat can never be overlooked. Organizations must take just as much care ensuring access to their own files are properly managed internally. Permission to files should be tightly controlled, granted and removed when appropriate.

The DHS said it was implementing additional security precautions to control and limit individuals’ access to information and better identify unusual access patterns.

A cornerstone of the Global Data Sentinel security ecosystem is its Identity Management Access Control. With GDS, organizations have full control over who can access files and what they can do with them. As such, when an employee leaves, you can ensure all their previous access and permissions are removed. If DHS had done something similar in this case, this whole incident might have been avoided.