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Watchdog on recent IRS hack: We told them so

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The IRS web portal is no digital Fort Knox, officials from IRS watchdog Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. In fact, J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, laid out a strong critique of the tax agency's ability to defend itself from cyber-attacks. Specifically, he cited dozens of security upgrades that had been recommended by his group -- but not implemented by the agency -- that would have reportedly made the most recent data breach "much more difficult" to pull off.

That breach leaked the personal information of more than 100,000 taxpayers. It's widely believed to have been perpetrated by a multinational syndicate that exploited a vulnerability in the agency's transcript website. "It's beyond Russia," George testified in response to earlier reports that the attack originated from there. "This is coming from several different countries that are syndicated around the world."

However, he did also acknowledge the difficult position the IRS is in, attempting to balance accessibility with security. "The current technology environment has raised taxpayers' expectations for online customer service interactions and it needs to meet these expectations." George told the committee. "However, the risk for this type of unauthorized access to tax accounts will continue to grow as the IRS focuses its efforts on delivering taxpayers self-assisted interactive online tools."

[Image Credit: Moment Editorial/Getty Images]

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