OPM Spends $133 Million on Credit Monitoring, Still No Credit Freeze

Posted: 12:34 am PDT
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On September 1, OPM announced the $133M contract for identity thief protection and credit monitoring services for the 21.5 million individuals affected by the massive OPM breach that includes security clearance data. Our go-to expert on this says that “perhaps the agency should be offering the option to pay for the cost that victims may incur in “freezing” their credit files, a much more effective way of preventing identity theft.” Excerpt from Krebs on Security:

The only step that will reliably block identity thieves from accessing your credit file — and therefore applying for new loans, credit cards and otherwise ruining your good name — is freezing your credit file with the major credit bureaus. This freeze process — described in detail in the primer, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Security Freeze — can be done online or over the phone. Each bureau will give the consumer a unique personal identification number (PIN) that the consumer will need to provide in the event that he needs to apply for new credit in the future.

Here is part of the OPM announcement:

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) today announced the award of a $133,263,550 contract to Identity Theft Guard Solutions LLC, doing business as ID Experts, for identity theft protection services for 21.5 million individuals whose personal information was stolen in one of the largest cybercrimes ever carried out against the United States Government. These services will be provided at no cost to the victims whose sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, were compromised in the cyber incident involving background investigations.

“We remain fully committed to assisting the victims of these serious cybercrimes and to taking every step possible to prevent the theft of sensitive data in the future,” said Beth Cobert, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management. “Millions of individuals, through no fault of their own, had their personal information stolen and we’re committed to standing by them, supporting them, and protecting them against further victimization. And as someone whose own information was stolen, I completely understand the concern and frustration people are feeling.”

ID Experts will provide all impacted individuals and their dependent minor children (under the age of 18 as of July 1, 2015) with credit monitoring, identity monitoring, identity theft insurance, and identity restoration services for a period of three years. This task order was awarded under GSA’s Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA) for Identity Monitoring, Data Breach Response and Protection Services which GSA awarded today.

The U.S. Government, through the Department of Defense, will notify those impacted beginning later this month and continue over the next several weeks. Notifications will be sent directly to impacted individuals.

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Heard that? Crickets.

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ALL Foreign Affairs Agencies Affected By #OPMHack: DOS, USAID, FCS, FAS, BBG and APHIS

Posted: 6:15  pm  PDT
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AFSA has now issued a notice to its membership on the OPM data breach. Below is an excerpt:

On Thursday June 4, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) became aware of a cybersecurity incident affecting its systems and data. AFSA subsequently learned that the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of many current and former federal employees at the foreign affairs agencies have been exposed as a result of this breach.

The most current information provided to AFSA indicates the following: Most current, former and prospective federal employees at ALL foreign affairs agencies have been affected by this breach. That includes the State Department, USAID, FCS, FAS, BBG and APHIS. OPM discovered a new breach late last week which indicates that any current, former or prospective employee for whom a background investigation has been conducted is affected.

In the coming weeks, OPM will be sending notifications to individuals whose PII was potentially compromised in this incident. The email will come from opmcio@csid.comand it will contain information regarding credit monitoring and identity theft protection services being provided to those federal employees impacted by the data breach. In the event OPM does not have an email address for the individual on file, a standard letter will be sent via the U.S. Postal Service. All the foreign affairs agencies suggest that those affected should contact the firm listed below. Members of the Foreign Commercial Service may additionally contact Commerce’s Office of Information Security at informationsecurity@doc.gov.

As a note of caution, confirm that the email you receive is, in fact, the official notification. It’s possible that malicious groups may leverage this event to launch phishing attacks.  To protect yourself, we encourage you to check the following:

  1. Make sure the sender email address is “opmcio@csid.com“.
  2. The email is sent exclusively to your work email address. No other individuals should be in the To, CC, or BCC fields.
  3. The email subject should be exactly “Important Message from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management CIO”.
  4. Do not click on the included link. Instead, record the provided PIN code, open a web browser, manually type the URL http://www.csid.com/opm into the address bar and press enter. You can then use the provided instructions to enroll using CSID’s Web portal.
  5. The email should not contain any attachments. If it does, do not open them.
  6. The email should not contain any requests for additional personal information.
  7. The official email should look like the sample screenshot below.
image via afsa.org

image via afsa.org

Additional information has been made available on the company’s website, www.csid.com/opm, and by calling toll-free 844-777-2743 (International callers: call collect 512-327-0705).

Agency-Specific Points of Contact:

If you have additional questions, contact AFSA’s constituency vice presidents and representatives:

Read the full announcement here.

Amidst this never ending round of data breaches, go ahead and read Brian Krebs’ How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Security Freeze. The USG is not offering to pay the cost of a credit freeze but it might be worth considering.

Of course, the security freeze does not solve the problem if the intent here goes beyond stealing USG employees’ identities.   If the hackers were after the sensitive information contained in the background investigations, for use at any time in the future, not sure that a credit freeze, credit monitoring and/or ID thief protection can do anything to protect our federal employees.

Security clearance investigations, by their very nature, expose people’s darkest secrets — the things a foreign government might use to blackmail or compromise them such as drug and alcohol abuse, legal and financial troubles and romantic entanglements. (via)

I understand why the USG has to show that it is doing something to address the breach but — if a foreign government, as suspected, now has those SF-86s, how can people protect themselves from being compromised? If this is not about compromising credit, or identities of USG employees but about secrets, credit monitoring and/or ID thief protection for $20 Million will be an expensive but useless response, wouldn’t it?

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