The Internal Revenue Service said the recent hacks that led to the lifting of more than 100,000 files came at the hands of Russian criminal operatives.
Two officials speaking anonymously made the claim to the Associated Press, basing their assessments on computer data they tracked. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen had previously told reporters the files were stolen as part of a complex plot to claim refunds.
An IRS agent wouldn’t comment on the claim of Russian involvement. But it’s not the first time the agency’s been hit by overseas hacks.
The highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence officer ever to defect to the West, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, has released “Disinformation,” taking aim at the widely misunderstood but still astonishingly influential realm of the Russian-born “science” of disinformation.”
In 2012, the IRS mailed out 655 tax refunds to an address in Lithuania, and another 343 to a single address in Shanghai, AP reported.
This latest hack occurred at an IRS site entitled “Get Transcript,” which gives filers access to old returns. So far, the hackers have used the information they accessed to claim $50 million in fraudulent tax returns, AP said.
“We’re confident that these are not amateurs,” Koskinen said, AP reported. “These actually are organized crime syndicates that not only we but everybody in the financial industry are dealing with.”
Congress, meanwhile, has decided to hold hearings on the matter.
“When the federal government fails to protect private and confidential taxpayer information, Congress must act,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, AP reported. “Taxpayers deserve to know what happened at the IRS regarding the data theft, and this hearing will be the first step of many that the committee takes to determine what happened and how the government can prevent such attacks from happening again.”