Cyber Criminals Attack Tax Records

May 2, 2017

Spring is in the air. For many of us that means more daylight hours to enjoy the outdoors; warmer temperatures, so we can open windows and air out the house; and trout season is just about to begin. For some of us though, this time of the year brings a lot of dread as the deadline for filing our taxes looms ever closer.

Another thing we should all be concerned about is how secure our tax information is. Bloomberg News released a story on April 6th, 2017 about the sale of W-2 forms on the Dark Web. In this article, Bloomberg discloses a hacker had phished a tax preparation firm and was offering 3,600 Florida W-2s for sale over the Dark Web.

Additionally, IBM’s commercial security research team, the IBM X-Force, found more than a 6,000 percent increase in the number of tax related spam had been trapped by anti-spam filters installed for their clients. This increase was during the 3-month period from December 2016 through February 2017 according to PYMNTS.com.

When compared to credit card data, tax information is much more valuable. The data on a W-2 will not usually change much from year to year while credit cards can be cancelled and reissued in a matter of days giving them a very short time of usefulness for cybercriminals. Limor Kessem, an executive security advisor with IBM Security, told PYMNTS.com that tax information, like that sold from the Florida tax preparation firm, can sell for as much as $50 per file. It can be used for many things from filing for a tax return to getting false IDs, credit cards, and more.

Even the IRS has been successfully attacked by Cybercriminals in search of tax record information. In 2015 more than 100,000 taxpayers had their tax data stolen as hackers bypassed one of the IRS’s online tools and gained access to copies of tax returns and other tax information held on file in their database.

What does this mean for the average person? Make sure you talk with your tax preparer and insure their data is protected. Remember, once you give them your tax data, it is only as secure as their database.

If you are a tax preparer, or deal with tax data, you must make yourself aware of this threat. Do not sit idly by while your clients’ data is stolen because you did not think it could happen to you. Cybercriminals launch massive attacks aimed at thousands of servers at a time. They may not target you specifically, but can be led to you by keywords they find while searching the internet.

Many tax preparation businesses are too small to be able to hire full time staff for network security. If this is your case, consider contracting a managed service provider (MSP). A MSP can provide many services in addition to your network security and will almost always be considerably less expensive than hiring your own staff to do the work for you.

Rusty Jones

ACS Staff Writer