Tax season has changed quite a lot over the years with the implementation of the internet, displayed by the fact that more people than ever are filing their taxes online. This has been a major benefit for many, as it is convenient, quick, and mostly secure. The “mostly” is due to the fact that there have already been incidences of the tax system being hacked and federal funds stolen. Most prominently was the data breach of the IRS in 2015, in which hackers were able to successfully access an estimate of over 700,000 taxpayers information, and file fake returns amounting to $50 million in stolen federal funds.
Recently, in India, a fan of actress Kareena Kapoor was able to hack into her income tax account and file false returns. His reasoning being that he thought he could use this to obtain her phone number. According to a cyber police official, the individual had Kapoor’s permanent account number (PAN), which is essentially the Indian equivalent to Social Security numbers (SSN) in the United States. Possession of this number facilitated the hack into her account, though no details have been released as to how he obtained it. The breach was discovered when Kapoor went to file her own income taxes, and discovered that they had already been filed. This prompted her accountant to report the incident to police, to which a First Information Report (FIR) was then filed. After diligent effort, the individual was tracked through his IP address and arrested.
The Vital Need for Cyber Security to Protect Tax Information
There have been other incidents aside from the two above as well. Point being, cyber attackers are always looking for ways to gain financial windfalls. Hence, why proper cyber security is always of concern. Even individuals simply filing from their home computer should always have some sort of comprehensive security software installed. Between malware, keyloggers, spyware, and other infections, information can be breached from home systems quite easily when not protected.
As far as the IRS goes, they seemed to have fortified their security methods to prevent breaches from happening again. In February of 2016, there was another attempted breach upon the IRS. Though, in this circumstance, no data from their systems was compromised. They stated that 464,000 unique SSN’s stolen from outside sources were involved in the attempted breach, and that 101,000 of these were used to successfully generate an E-File PIN, which allows individuals to file an electronic return. The IRS was able to stop the attack and said in a statement, “No personal taxpayer data was compromised or disclosed by IRS systems. The IRS also is taking immediate steps to notify affected taxpayers by mail that their personal information was used in an attempt to access the IRS application. The IRS is also protecting their accounts by marking them to protect against tax-related identity theft.”