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USDA NOTIFIES HEADQUARTERS EMPLOYEES OF POSSIBLE PERSONAL INFORMATION BREACH
Provides Free Credit Monitoring Services
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2006- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today directed that notifications be sent to Washington, D.C. area employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) whose personal identity information might have been compromised when USDA computer systems were illegally accessed. Johanns also committed to providing one year of free credit monitoring services to potentially affected employees.
Johanns was informed today of the possible breach during a briefing on the status of a forensic investigation into the incident. He was first notified of the incident on June 6, at which time he was assured that personal identity information had been protected. However, subsequent forensic analysis leaves uncertain whether personal information was protected, prompting today's notification. The intrusion took place during the first weekend in June.
The personal identity information potentially accessed includes individual's names, social security numbers, and photos. Worksite information that is readily available to the public is also contained within the database. Approximately 26,000 current and former Washington, D.C. area USDA employees and contractors are potentially affected.
Notifications were sent today via email to potentially affected individuals informing them of the potential breach and of USDA's commitment to provide free credit monitoring services for one year. Letters will also be mailed to the same group of individuals to ensure they are aware of the potential problem, to provide information about identity theft protection, and to advise them of the details of a free credit monitoring service that USDA will provide.
People who believe they may be affected by the data breach can go to http://www.firstgov.gov/ for more information. USDA has established a call center that people can contact to get information about this incident and learn more about consumer-identity protections. That toll free number is 1-800-FEDINFO (1-800-333-4636). The call center is operating from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm (EDT), Monday - Saturday as long as it is needed.
Appropriate law enforcement agencies have been notified, and the USDA Inspector General's Office is conducting a full investigation into this matter.
USDA information technology personnel were notified on June 5 of the suspicious computer network traffic and immediately took action to protect the administrative system that was breached. At that time, a review of security software indicated that all personal identity information had been protected. USDA takes very seriously its responsibility to appropriately safeguard our employees' personal information and is working to prevent similar future incidents.