Unknown hackers could possible stole personal information of almost 100,000 who applied for the financial aid from the federal program Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which the IRS discovered lately. This made them vulnerable to different unlawful activities if the hackers use their data wrongfully.
According to the statement of John Koskinen, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) discovered that hackers possible stole the personal information of the students who applied for financial aid. As stated by the new online, the stolen information might include names, dates of birth as well as Social Security Numbers. This is the finding of the Senate Finance Committee during the testimony on Thursday.
Koskinen is the current IRS commissioner.
This latest issue is alarming because the hackers were able to steal the information through a security breach and they utilized an online tool to hack the loan applications of the student, as stated by the IRS Commissioner. The potential stolen data of the students are important and so the already started to inform those individuals involved in the security breach.
According to the commission also, the “data retrieval tool” caused the problem wherein it allowed the student loan applications to upload the tax information online from FAFSA. In an effort to provide a clear outcome from their investigation, the IRS used at least 200 types of methods on how to access the data of the applicants.
They revealed that hackers made use of the e-file PIN to hack the system immediately.
”And of course social security numbers can be bought online for $10 by organized criminals,” as stated by Koskinen. He added that by February, the IRS saw “a pattern of activity…that was clearly not consistent with people going on to actually apply for student loans.”
“It was clear that some of the activity was legitimate students, some of it was criminals,” said Koskinen as quoted by the news.
“While this tool provides an important convenience for applicants, we cannot risk the safety of taxpayer data. Protecting taxpayer data has to be the highest priority, and we will continue working with FSA to bring this tool back in a safe and secure manner,” stated by Koskinen on Thursday.
The shared information online revealed that the system went offline last month when the hackers stole the personal information and filed bogus refunds for the applicants. From the estimated figure, there were issued almost 8,000 fake refunds amounting to $30 million, said the IRS commissioner.
On the other hand, the agency managed to stop almost 52,000 tax returns and avoided 14,000 non-legitimate refunds. They are also aware that since September 2016, there is already risk in the existing online system and discussed matters with the Department of Education the following month.
Koskinen stated that, “I told (the Education Department) as soon as there was any indication of criminal activity, we would have to shut that system down.” He added, “We’re trying to anticipate where the criminals will attack next.”
In line with this, the commissioner likewise stated that estimated figure of 100,000 may increase but they are still monitoring the situation. This is his answer when asked by Senator Ron Wyden if there is a possibility that the figure might go up.