More than half a million taxpayers should expect a letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Services as more details related to a May hacking incident that affected the IRS and confidential taxpayer information continue to unravel.
The IRS said in an Aug. 17 statement that around 220,000 taxpayers' account information might have been accessed, while around 170,000 additional households appear to be at risk for identity theft, as the hackers attempted to access their personal information, albeit unsuccessfully.
The new figures, a result of the IRS' analysis of over 23 million uses of its system, are on top of the approximately 114,000 hacked taxpayer accounts and 111, 000 failed attempts.
It can be recalled that the IRS admitted that in mid-May, its cybersecurity team found that unidentified hackers were able to infiltrate the Get Transcript application at the IRS website. The said application allows taxpayers to obtain certain information through the IRS website. This includes transcripts of tax returns, tax account, record of account, wage and income and verification of non-filing.
The service was launched in January 2014 but was shut down in May 21 when the hacking incident was discovered.
The IRS said that it will begin to send letters to the identified taxpayers "in the next few days." According to a FAQ document in the IRS' website, the letters will contain additional information and offer credit monitoring services.
The IRS reiterated that the services offered to the affected taxpayers, which comprise credit protection and Identity Protection PINs, are offered for free.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinsen, in a June 2 testimony before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, said that the hack had a "complex and sophisticated" nature.
While it is still unknown who or what group perpetuated the cybercrime, Koskinsen said that the IRS is submitting "a number" of legislative proposals in its fiscal 2016 budget that are designed to improve the agency's cybersecurity measures and address various issues like identity theft and refund fraud.
"Congress has an important role to play here. Congress can help by approving the President's FY 2016 Budget request, which includes $101 million specifically devoted to identity theft and refund fraud, plus $188 million for critical information technology infrastructure," the commissioner added.
A June 5 CNN report said that Rep. Peter Roskam confirmed that Koskinen believes that the attack originated from Russia.
In its latest update, the IRS said that it will continue its investigation on the issue. The hacking scandal is still under the review of the IRS Criminal Investigation department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.