[ISN] IRS loses track of computers

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Aug 21 2002 - 01:33:00 PDT

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    By Colleen O'Hara 
    Aug. 19, 2002
    The Internal Revenue Service can't account for computers that it lent
    to volunteers who help the elderly and others prepare their tax
    returns, according to a Treasury inspector general's audit report.
    The Aug. 13 report from the Treasury inspector general for tax
    administration comes on the heels of well-publicized reports of
    missing laptops from the Justice Department, the U.S. Customs Service
    and Defense Department.
    Under its volunteer programs, the IRS lends about 6,600 desktop and
    laptop computers with tax preparation software to volunteers located
    at 18,000 sites nationwide. However, the IG did not specify how many
    machines might be unaccounted for.
    The volunteer programs help encourage e-filing and are designed to
    assist elderly people and others who can't afford to pay for tax
    filing assistance. For the 2001 tax-filing season, volunteers prepared
    about 1.1 million tax returns, and more than 700,000 of those were
    done electronically, the audit said.
    The IG audit found that the IRS:
    * Cannot physically account for computers provided to volunteers. For 
      instance, IRS did not ensure that computers obtained from external 
      agencies, including the military, were immediately recorded in its 
      inventory system.
    * Did not ensure that taxpayer e-file data was removed from volunteer 
      computers at the end of filing season 2001. The IG could not 
      determine how many taxpayers whose e-file data may not have been 
      adequately protected from unauthorized disclosure or misuse.
    * Did not ensure that only authorized software was loaded on volunteer 
      computers when provided. Some computers had software other than 
      operating systems and the tax preparation software.
    The IRS agreed with the IG recommendations and said it would take 
    action. Among the agency's plans:
    * Perform a complete inventory assessment and validate the equipment 
      used in volunteer tax preparation programs.
    * Temporarily suspend the acquisition of equipment from external 
    * Issue instructions to territory managers to delete all taxpayer data 
      from volunteer computers after a filing season.
    * Pursue a legislative change to allow the transfer of computer 
      ownership to organizations that deliver volunteer tax return 
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