This last Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement that a cybersecurity breach occurred within their system and has possibly exposed personnel information for about 46,000 veterans. New information on the incident now shows that 17,000 community care providers that produce the agency’s medical program have also been hacked because of the breach.
The VA data breach has compromised the Social Security numbers and other personal information of identification for the thousands of veterans within the system. It is now being speculated that bank account information of community care providers effected by the hack have also been exposed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs in their statement regarding the incident said: “To protect these Veterans, the FSC is alerting the affected individuals, including the next-of-kin of those who are deceased, of the potential risk to their personal information. The department is also offering access to credit monitoring services, at no cost, to those whose social security numbers may have been compromised.”
Although the VA data breach is relatively small compared to other issues federal agencies have experienced in the recent past, such as the Defense Information Systems Agency data breach which impacted 200,000 people last year, it still has reignited cause for concern by federal employees, including members of congress, that wish to address the larger issue surrounding these hacks.
The Federal News Network reported that: “This most recent data breach is unacceptable,” senators wrote. “It also exposes the fact that VA has not taken the necessary steps to ensure oversight, accountability and security of the vast financial, health, and other personal data it collects and processes to perform its critical services for America’s veterans. . . It is imperative VA take aggressive and decisive action to address this current incident and lay out a strategy to prevent such problems from arising in the future.”
Comparitech, a prominent Security research firm, reported that between 2014 and 2018 at least 443 data breaches took place between government agencies and military branches. Roughly 21.5 million federal employees, including retirees, were impacted by the Office of Personnel Management’s 2015 breaches. Similarly, nearly 60 million record holders were hit during the 2018 data breach of the United States Postal Service. This unacceptable trend is being addressed and criticized by lawmakers who are pressing these agencies to find better ways to protect federal employee’s personal information.
Veterans or Veteran next-of-kin that receive notification their information is potentially at risk from this incident can direct specific questions to the FSC Customer Help Desk to VAFSCVeteransSupport@va.gov or writing to VA FSC Help Desk, Attn: Customer Engagement Center, .P.O. Box 149971, Austin, TX 78714-9971.