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July 31, 2015
What do Target, Michael's, Home Depot and Staples have in common? Sure, they are big retailers, but what if we add Sony, Anthem, JP Morgan Chase, the White House, the State Department and the IRS to the list? You guessed it - they've all been HACKED! 

Cyberattacks are increasingly common, rising more than 62% last year alone! And while you can't prevent these assaults , you can take steps to protect yourself and your identity. 
Follow us through this new series and we will do our best to inform you and arm you -  don't become the next victim!
IRS Cyberattack
The New Mafia
In May,  criminals were able to access tax forms from over 100,000 taxpayers through the online "Get Transcript" service.  They were then able to file fraudulent returns and plunder close to $50 million in refunds.  On top of that, they now have social security numbers, birthdates, and other data for these taxpayers' spouses and dependents. All this Personally Identifiable Information (or PII to our acronym-obsessed government) can be used to steal identities, open up new accounts and lines of credit, siphon funds, and file more fraudulent tax returns.  

Internet multimedia concept with all gadget and computers connected to each other
It Gets Even Worse
The really bad news (!) is that the robbers already had the personal information needed to gain access (social security numbers, addresses and birth dates) - which they obtained from sources OUTSIDE the IRS.  It was also reported that, to get through the authentication process, they had knowledge of former addresses and car payments and even the answer to questions like "What was your high school team's mascot?"  Yikes!  This means they are highly sophisticated data miners trolling various sources including our social media sites.  They steal money in the process, but their primary intent is to acquire and sell PII for use in more damaging cyberattacks in the future.

The Good News
Unlike the corporate breaches that are entangled in secrecy, we have actually learned some things from this IRS cyberattack from the public hearings that were held in June. Most notably, we need to make authentication processes even more difficult and annoying than they already are, and we have learned that identity thieves can assemble seemingly harmless bits of our personal information to gain access to much more sensitive data. Nobody knows where, when or how the perpetrators will use this stolen data, but at least we are finally waking up to the seriousness of these threats.
Consumers are demanding more protection for their privacy, and corporations are investing in greater security measures. Obama has called for a national data breach law to address the lack of strict standards in many states.  Tax industry firms, such as TurboTax, have teamed up with the IRS to make online tax filing safer and more secure.  New security start-ups are developing better technologies that pinpoint unusual activity and systems are being re-designed to make them harder to breach.   
None of these measures will guarantee your security; after all, much of your personal information has been floating around for years. But there are steps you can - and should - take to protect your identity.
Stay tuned for the next issue!
 Boulder CPA Group | | nancy@bouldercpas.com | 1790 30th Street
Suite 418
Boulder, CO 80301