IRS kills electronic filing PIN feature due to repeated attacks

The agency tried to protect the Web application after a data breach earlier this year, but attacks continued

After repeated attacks, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has decided to retire a Web-based tool for obtaining PINs that taxpayers could use to file tax returns electronically.

The Electronic Filing (E-file) PINs Web application is no longer available on the IRS website "because of questionable activity," the agency announced last week.

In February, the IRS disclosed that hackers used stolen taxpayer information like names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and full addresses in order to obtain E-file PINs through its website.

Attackers attempted to get E-file PINs corresponding to 464,000 unique SSNs using an automated bot, but the bot was blocked after succeeded in getting 101,000 of the PINs.

After that incident the IRS put additional defenses in place, yet the automated attacks continued with increased frequency. Only a small number of additional E-file PINs were affected, but for safety reasons the agency has decided to retire the tool.

This might cause some issues, because links to this Web application are embedded in most commercial tax software products. Taxpayers can still file tax returns electronically though without a PIN, by using their prior-year adjusted gross income from copies of their prior year tax returns.

Those who no longer have this information, can obtain a copy of their tax return through the separate Get Transcript application on the IRS website. It's worth noting that the Get Transcript application too suffered a data breach in the past, attackers walking away with Social Security numbers, dates of birth and street addresses for over 300,000 taxpayers from its database.

"The IRS continues to work with the tax software community to make this change as smooth as possible for affected taxpayers," the agency said.

Given the huge amount of personal data that was stolen over the past year by hackers from multiple health insurers and government organizations, it's likely that attackers will try to profit it from it, including through fraudulent tax returns.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about Internal Revenue ServiceIRS

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts