Aug 25 2015

OMB Provides Financial Boost to Help Federal Agencies Improve Cybersecurity

The OMB is shelling out more money to help agencies invest more in cybersecurity.

Security breaches are jolts of reality for federal government agencies, forcing them to quickly think about how they can prevent similar attacks from happening in the future and swiftly address areas of vulnerability. To ensure that this happens, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is opening its wallet.

The OMB plans to provide the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with $242 million to boost cybersecurity. In May, hackers gained access to the personal information of 100,000 taxpayers by utilizing the Internal Revenue Service’s “Get Transcript” platform. According to FedScoop, IRS commissioner John Koskinen said this could result in up to $50 million in lost revenue. Yet the breach proved to be worse than originally projected, as the agency revealed that the actual number was over 220,000, ZDNet reports. The IRS reached this conclusion after conducting more comprehensive research.

“Following this review, the IRS has identified more questionable attempts to obtain transcripts using sensitive information already in the hands of criminals,” the agency explained in a statement. “As a result, the IRS is moving immediately to notify and help protect these taxpayers.”

The increased budget will give the IRS new information sharing systems, help victims of tax fraud, enhance international tax fraud investigation, and strengthen attack detection and prevention. As FedScoop explains, the incident forced the IRS to take a deeper interest in security, despite financial obstacles:

The White House report says the IRS has “substantially increased” its investment in combating identity theft and tax fraud, despite severe agencywide funding cuts. Koskinen told the finance committee as much in June, saying the IRS is always working to upgrade systems but is hamstrung by the recent loss of several staffers from its IT department, along with constrained budgets and the unfunded mandate to align its systems with the tax penalties related to

In addition to increasing the IRS’ budget, the OMB wants to assist other agencies with their cybersecurity endeavors. FedScoop reports that the OMB wants to give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) $262 million to keep a watchful eye over agency networks and make sure employees are trained to guard the most sensitive information. A little over $180 million would go to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to do the same.