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Government Privacy Security IT News Your Rights Online

GAO Criticizes IRS Over Serious IT Deficiencies 57

wiredmikey writes with an analysis of a GAO report on the dismal failure of the IRS to implement secure IT practices. From the article: "The Government Accountability Office has blasted the Internal Revenue Service for failing to implement stronger security measures after a succession of dismal reports on the subject. In a report issued to the Secretary of the Treasury last week, the GAO said that the IRS had met just 15 percent of the 105 previously reported recommendations where information security is concerned. Taking a blunt approach, the GAO said that the IRS 'lacks reasonable assurance as to the accuracy of financial information or the adequate protection of sensitive taxpayer information.' ... It also said it would issue a limited distribution report to the IRS that addresses details omitted from this most recent report due to the sensitivity of the information."
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GAO Criticizes IRS Over Serious IT Deficiencies

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  • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:10AM (#38058618) Homepage

    I can't find the link after a few minutes on Google, but a couple years back there was news that some IRS employees were using their computer systems to snoop on celebrities and read their tax returns.

    This report seems basically like confirmation that once you're on the system, you can do whatever you want.

    I think a basic precaution would be that you have to know both the social security number and the name in order to open a file.

    • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:39AM (#38058830) Homepage

      Speaking of which, does anybody find it strange that whenever someone does something the President doesn't like, he gets audited by the IRS? Nixon did it, so did JFK, and the coincidences continue.

      • I have not noticed that. I'm guessing that your observation is derived from anecdotal, possibly apocryphal audits.

      • Nixon badly misused the agency. In the aftermath, Congress cracked down on the IRS like they have done for no other agency. For example, even small agencies usually have lots of political appointees. Those jobs are often used as payback. The IRS, though, has only two political appointees - the Commissioner and the Taxpayer Advocate.

        Anyone who believes the IRS routinely launches audits of personal income tax returns upon the orders of some high-placed politician is living in 1972. There have been more r

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:45AM (#38058874)

      The key issue is with IT workers we work at a level that is behind the software audits. And really how much is the right balance of using our tax money to make the IRS more secure?

      You can go all out spend billions of dollars for massive audits and an infrastructure that can handle everything to make sure nothings slips by the cracks. Or spend millions of dollars to make sure the common stuff doesn't get by and only a few slip by.

      You can just do nothing and figure we have invested enough already.

      We have this strange notion that the government needs to be infallible in everything, then we complain that they are not spending their money wisely.
      Most of the government waste goes to "Covering their asses" Not so much in corruption where we are spending money to help hide a political figure from his mistakes but in a process that tries to make sure there are no mistakes where everything needs to go up and down the entire chain before it gets approved.

      We have all heard of the $900 toilet seat. It isn't the fact the vendor was selling the seat for $900 but because Maintenance Worker A see a seat that needs to be replaced. Spend 15 minutes writing a form to request it, his manager has to read it look at the seat verify that it needs to be replaced, then approves the form brings it further up Where people look at the seat try to find the most cost effective vendor for the seat, debate whether they should just get a cheap $5.00 one that will last 5 months or a nice one that will last for years. After all this and a month later the seat comes it. Why all this for a $20 medium quality seat. Because if they found out the Maintenance Guy A has been spending government money to buy $30 seats where they could have gotten one for $20 would cause an issue where either the Maintenance Man would get fired or his direct boss or further up, depending who is the best at pointing fingers.

      • by jackbird ( 721605 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @10:32AM (#38059360)

        Actually, no. The $600 Toilet seats were for an aircraft (E3 Hawkeye?) that had a non-standard sized seat that had to conform to various weight and durability requirements. The contractor that originally supplied the seats no longer had the tooling from their original production run, so making replacement seats became a matter of starting a small-batch production run with large startup costs (making molds, etc.).

        EDIT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_seat#U.S._Navy.27s_.22.24600_Toilet_Seat.22 [wikipedia.org] will tell you all you need to know. I had some details wrong above, but the actual story looks even better for the military.

      • Your words, "The key issue is with IT workers we work at a level that is behind the software audits. And really how much is the right balance of using our tax money to make the IRS more secure?"

        When your organization is so complex and unwieldy that what you state has serious weight in a discussion then you or your system is fatally flawed.

        The IRS's problems are a direct result of a tax system which only exists to serve the needs of politicians and their friends. It certainly does not serve their constituent

  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:15AM (#38058668)

    Should I be thinking twice about filing my taxes? It seems like there's a pretty big risk for identity theft.

    • Re:Identity theft? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:47AM (#38058896)

      Should I be thinking twice about filing my taxes? It seems like there's a pretty big risk for identity theft.

      Actually, you want to file as early as you can. One of the biggest identity theft targets is tax refunds: steal someone's SSN, and file. I've seen cases where the refund was sent to completely different States than where the real taxpayer lives. The IRS doesn't check DOBs, either so don't count on them not knowing that as a defense.

      And what do you do when that happens? Call the IRS and then they "investigate" while you go round and round with their customer service. So, be sure to call your Congressman and Senator if it happens. Their offices are pretty good at shaking up Government agencies.

      • To avoid bad guys using the IRS to help steal your identity, FILE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE! I can't stress this enough.

        Also, to prevent your ex from taking exemptions for the kids even though s/he isn't entitled, make sure you file first.

        • I'd love to see my ex try. If you previously have not claimed exemptions and start to, it raises huge red flags with the IRS and can trigger an audit. :)

          • Yes, but the audit comes much later. The exemptions will be given to whoever files first. The person who was supposed to get the exemptions will then be stuck without getting credt for the exemptions for many months until everything is sorted out.

            I stand by my initial statement. As a practical matter, if you want things to go smoothly, file first (assuming, of course, you are the one who is legally entitled to the exemptions).

    • Everybody files taxes. To be considered a big risk for identity theft, there would have to be thousands of cases of identity theft resulting from it. That isn't the case. You would have heard about it.
    • There's a pretty bigger risk of government theft if you don't...theft of your time, money, freedom, and reputation that is. I prefer my chances with the petty thieves rather than the pros.

      Should I be thinking twice about filing my taxes? It seems like there's a pretty big risk for identity theft.

    • Call the IRS and ask for a complete account of where the money has come into your SSN account. When I did because something was erroneous they cited PRIVACY concerns as why I could not know what someone else submitted into MY account. You don't have to wonder why ID Theft is the number one crime when a criminal potentially harming your character has more rights that you with a federal agency.
  • why bother with IRS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:42AM (#38058858) Homepage Journal

    With all the inflation created by the Fed to feed the ever hungry Treasury, why bother with the IRS? Here is a cost cutting for you: abolish the IRS and just keep counterfeiting. There is no difference. IRS is just a token dep't, existing for the sake of existing, today, that government only collects a small part of its expenses in taxes and borrows and prints the rest.

    You KNOW the final result of this government agenda. The final result is massive inflation (maybe even hyper inflation). What difference does it make if you collect a few percentage points of your expenses in taxes, while the most of what you spend you print directly (QE) or indirectly - 0% interest at the discount window given to the banks, so they can buy US Treasuries?

    USA can never repay its debt with honest money, it is going to monetize the debt and destroy the value of USD further. Since 1913 the value of USD has come down by 99%, what's the big deal about the 1 remaining percent? What's so special about it?

    Since 1971 the end result was pre-determined. The fiat currencies of the world were going to come to a disgraceful end. Today in Greece they already don't bother with the fiat, people on the streets already found ways to exchange their labor and products/services by using other means of exchange, store of value and unit of account (all this to avoid the austerity imposed by the banks upon the country and to avoid the taxation.)

    Greeks are doing it right.

    At some point everybody else will wake up and do it right too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      why bother with the IRS?

      The IRS is there to:
      1) Make doubly sure that any citizen can be found guilty of a serious crime should the need arise.
      2) Restrict economic progression of the workforce
      3) Enable special interests to avoid 2
      4) Raise capital to 'invest' aforementioned special interests.

      Taxes are a necessity but to place the majority of the burden on the least capable is wrong. Especially that it appears to be purely on the understanding that if you were to ask the most wealthy to do so, they would refuse/offshore.

      "We can't enf

    • Oh, so the above comment is 'redundant'? Why, did anybody else make the same point in this story?

      But there is no rhyme or reason to the moderation here. Lets look at some cases:

      http://developers.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2521666&cid=38034324 [slashdot.org] -1 Troll (opinion)

      http://developers.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2521666&cid=38038114 [slashdot.org] 0 Flamebait - in response to this amazing proposition of violence that stays untouched by any moderation. [slashdot.org]

      http://developers.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2521666&cid=380 [slashdot.org]

      • by dkf ( 304284 )

        Oh, so the above comment is 'redundant'?

        There's a fair chunk of randomness in moderation due to the fact that people are really rather variable. "Groupthink" is really not the truth of it; "average out over many people" is closer to the truth.

        Write well enough to not embarrass yourself, and don't sweat what some random ass thinks.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The reason all these get moderated down is that no one else really cares for poorly reasoned, ideological tirades. Maybe its not the moderators who are the problem here?

    • what's the big deal about the 1 remaining percent? What's so special about it?

      It keeps them in control of the dollar as U.S. currency. This way, when all hell breaks loose, they can present the Amero [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amero] as the new money, valued to get everyone on the same level, but still control the exchange rate (from USD to Amero). Those who maketh the money, control the money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hi. A quick economics lesson. Money has no intrinsic value. Frankly, even gold does not have an intrinsic value close to what it represented when it was used as our reserves. Money represents goods and services. If all of the goods and services went away, you would have worthless paper. If we had a gold reserve, your gold would be worthless as well.

      I hate the debt. But things like the "USD has come dwn by 99%" are close to being accurate (it is actually more like 95%) but misleading. We have this thing call

      • I see money as something similar to shares of company. A unit of currency is a share in the country's economy. When there is a fixed amount of shares you know exactly what you 'own'. When some bureaucrats in government decide that the amount of shares in economy is to jump because they say so - this is a scam. Investing and saving in such arbitrary environment is like trying to learn how to walk while some fucker is playing with the value of g. The only way to stand a chance is to be friends with said fucke

    • by Zouden ( 232738 )

      When exactly is this hyper-inflation supposed to start? I've been hearing about it for years, but the inflation rate is still what, 3.6%?

      • I was the AC to whom you replied (too lazy to log in).

        Good question. I don't know exactly when it will happen. If you look at a country with a large trade imbalance and large external debts, you will see the currency decline in value. This brings the trade imbalance back in line and eventually the currency finds its proper value. Quite beautiful mathematically.

        So why is the dollar not declining? It is used as the reseve currency for many, many nations. In fact, it represents about 60-70% of the world's rese

      • And, BTW, I hate the way Slashdot renders the messages. You apparently did NOT reply to my AC comment. (sigh)

    • With all the inflation created by the Fed to feed the ever hungry Treasury, why bother with the IRS? Here is a cost cutting for you: abolish the IRS and just keep counterfeiting. There is no difference. IRS is just a token dep't, existing for the sake of existing, today, that government only collects a small part of its expenses in taxes and borrows and prints the rest.

      In FY 2010, the U.S. collected $2.1 trillion in taxes, and borrowed $1.3 trillion, I would hardly consider ~2/3 to be a small part.

      http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=200 [taxpolicycenter.org]

  • With over 50,000 pages of tax code, it is pretty obvious that nothing the IRS is going to do is going to be efficient. But I would suspect they believe in security through obscurity.
  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @09:48AM (#38058906)

    GAO, you have just won a FREEEE AUDIT!!! :)

  • india (Score:3, Funny)

    by rim_namor ( 2454342 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @10:29AM (#38059328)

    just outsource the entire IRS IT stuff to India, I think that'll fix everything in a hurry.

  • And now where are they?

    maybe it's time to move them in house get rid of the overhead and have so a IT worker has a boss on site and not one in a contractors office that is just a recruiter.

  • I work for the government and thus know how horrible our IT is in general, but I find the typical reason is one word: FUNDING. yes, GAO can make fantastic recommendations that absolutely should be implemented. It's not that government staff is populated by buffoons or people who could care less about modern processes/equipment, security, privacy, etc etc etc. What typically happens is that recommendations, mandates, or best practices are given to the agency in question, but $0 are committed by the purse hol
    • Thank you for at least one informed opinion in contrast to foolish and foolhardy talk about the failure of government. What I see is that when you cripple government you play into the hands of big corporations (yes, the ones who happpily sell those "900 dollar toilet seats") because without government to regulate them and control them they are free to rape murder and pillage as they see fit. And now they are. Who is fracking our water supply into chemical sludge? The government? Who is convincing policy mak

Real wealth can only increase. -- R. Buckminster Fuller