Lawmakers probe large data breaches at US bank insurance agency

The FDIC saw about 160,000 personal bank records leave the agency on removable media in recent months

The personal banking information of about 160,000 U.S. residents walked out the door of the federal government's bank insurance agency on removable media of employees departing in recent months.

During the last seven months, seven departing employees at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) have left with personal banking information on thumb drives and other removable media, agency officials told a congressional subcommittee Thursday.

The FDIC, which provides deposit insurance to U.S. bank accounts, considered the data breaches as "inadvertent" copying of personal banking information that happened when departing employees were copying personal information to removable media, Lawrence Gross Jr., the FDIC's CIO, told the House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee's oversight subcommittee.

But in one case, the ex-employee denied downloading material and resisted turning it back over to the agency, lawmakers noted. One of the data breaches is the subject of a criminal investigation, said Fred Gibson, the FDIC's acting inspector general.

Lawmakers accused the FDIC of not taking the breaches seriously.

"Mr. Gross, you and I are viewing this incident from a completely different perspective," said Representative Bill Posey, a Florida Republican. "[You] call it a data breach. Where I'm from, we call it a theft if you take something that's not yours."

The FDIC didn't immediately report the incidents as major breaches to Congress until prompted by its inspector general's office, despite new guidance from the Office of Management and Budget to report serious breaches within seven days. 

Lawmakers questioned what they called a lack of transparency at the FDIC and a security policy that allows departing employees to download information from their hard drives.

"Regrettably, the American people have good reason to question whether their private banking information is secured by the FDIC," said Representative Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican. "The agency is failing to safeguard private banking information."

The agency has a "long history" of cybersecurity problems, he added. Before the recent removable media incidents, a foreign government in 2011 hacked into the computers of senior officials at the agency and was undetected for more than a year.

Gross, hired as the FDIC's CIO just last November, said he didn't originally classify the removal media incidents as major breaches because they appeared to involve accidental copying of files during "nonadversarial" departures of employees. The former employees involved have signed affidavits saying they didn't share the data with others, he said.

Still, one of Gross' top priorities as CIO is to revamp the agency's policy about removable media and to add security safeguards to block downloads of personal data, he said.

Most employees now cannot download FDIC data to removable media, and the agency is adding digital rights management software to its network, he said.

"At the FDIC, we are keenly aware that protecting sensitive information is critical to our mission of maintaining stability and public confidence in the nation's financial system and we are continually enhancing our information security program," Gross added.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?