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Wednesday, 04 October 2017 11:00

IRS awards Equifax US$7.25m no-bid contract after hack

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Less than a month after American credit information provider Equifax announced a major data breach, the US Internal Revenue Service has awarded the company a US$7.25 million contract to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud.

The contract award, posted on a government website on 30 September, describes it as a "sole source order", which means that no other company is considered capable of providing these services.

Equifax disclosed the breach of the date of up to 143 million Americans on 7 September. Later it said an additional 2.5 million people could be affected.

The IRS has suffered its own embarrassing breaches, with the agency announcing on 6 April that the personal data of up to 100,000 US taxpayers could have been compromised.

Two years earlier, thieves gained access to the tax returns of more than 300,000 by using stolen data.

Equifax initially said it had discovered the breach in July but it later turned out that the discovery had actually taken place in March.

It blamed a vulnerability in the Java Struts Web application framework for the breach.

According to a report issued about the breach by private security contractor Mandiant, two systems that support Equifax’s online dispute Web application were compromised by the attackers who also set up the means to remotely run commands on Equifax’s systems even if the vulnerability that had let them in was patched.

Remote access was made from about 35 “distinct public IP addresses”.

Mandiant said it had been unable to attribute the breach to any known hacking group that it tracks. It also said that the methods and tools used by the attackers did not match those of others of which it was aware.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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