Ag database breached, 26,000 names potentially in play

A month after incident, department is notifying affected employees, but it's not known if info was actually taken.

Last month, a hacker compromised a Dept. of Agriculture database containing the names, Social Security numbers and photos of 26,000 Washington-area employees, reports. It's still not known if the data was actually stolen, but Secretary Mike Johanns finally ordered disclosure of the breach to those potentially affected.

The database also contained information that is "readily available to the public" but no financial or health records, the department said. Employees are eligible for a year's worth of free credit monitoring services.

The federal agency's cybersecurity staff noticed suspicious activity on a couple of its machines during the weekend of June 3, indicating that an outsider was trying to gain illegal access. When staff members first notified Johanns of the incident three days later, they assured him that the personal information had sufficient protections to dispel concerns about identity theft.

"However, subsequent forensic analysis leaves uncertain whether personal information was protected," the agency said in a statement.

Add this possible breach to the VA theft and a hacking incident at the Dept. of Energy, in which officials sat on the news since last September.


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