Online thieves compromised systems at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, stealing personal information on 26,000 employees in the Washington D.C. area, including names, social security numbers and photos, the agency said in a statement published Wednesday.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told reporters during a press conference that the incident took place during the first weekend in June 2006. Johanns indicated that the information stolen was used for employee, contractor and media badges. The department will be giving one year of free credit monitoring to help affected people detect possible identity theft.
The announcement follow a series of high profile data loss incidents across U.S. government departments in the past year. Within the past 12 months, the U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Health and Human Services have all experienced major data loss through hacker break-ins, stolen laptops, or insecure employee practices.
The USDA originally believed that employees' identity information had been protected, but further forensics analysis indicated that the data could have been compromised, the Department of Agriculture said in its statement.
Posted by: Kelly Martin