Congressional Hearing Set On USDA Data Breach - InformationWeek

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Congressional Hearing Set On USDA Data Breach

An Ohio Congressman said the security breach not only puts people at risk for identity theft but also makes farmers reluctant to participate in federal programs.

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing next week about the data leak at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that put the identifying information on up to 150,000 people at risk.

The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 2.

Ohio Congressman Zack Space openly criticized the USDA's actions, and said next week's hearing will explore how the breach happened, proposed remedies, and recommendations on how to keep this from happening again.

"This is a pattern of security breaches in government agencies that is becoming all too familiar. But even with this familiarity, it's inexcusable in every instance," he said in a written statement. "Congress has a responsibility to make sure that the agency is doing everything possible to rectify the situation, make sure that it doesn't happen again, and make sure that victims are notified and compensated."

Space said he contacted House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, asking for the hearing. Peterson agreed to Space's request on Wednesday.

The USDA announced on April 20 that it had inadvertently exposed online sensitive information, such as names and Social Security numbers, in a publicly available database. The database has existed since 1981 and the information has been exposed ever since it was put online, according to Terri Teuber, director of communications for the USDA.

Today, the database contains information on 47,000 people who receive USDA funding from the Farm Services Agency and the USDA Rural Development agency, according to an advisory. USDA has identified between 105,000 and 150,000 individuals whose private information has been entered into the federal database at some time during the past 26 years.

"It's often the case that the farmers who need help from these programs the most are the ones that don't participate in the programs. The revelation of the actions of the USDA will only make these farmers more reluctant to trust the government," added Space. "My mission is to help restore the American people's trust in their government. The government should work to support domestic agriculture producers, not put them at risk of identity theft."

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