Identity Theft

A Company That Does Government Background Checks Was Just Hacked

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A large government contractor announced last week that its network was the victim of a cyberattack, but no details have been released on the extent of the breach. The company is US Investigations Services (USIS), which is the largest provider of security-clearance background checks to the federal government. Its website says USIS holds contracts with 100 federal agencies, in addition to commercial clients.

USIS is working with a computer forensics investigation firm to sort out the details of the attack and identify what information, if any, was stolen. USIS said “it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack,” according to experts who have reviewed the case.

Citing the ongoing investigation, a company spokesman said he had no more information to provide on the attack.

Given the limited details available, there’s no way for government employees and other consumers to know how this breach affects them, but that’s not unique to the USIS investigation. People are at constant risk of having their personal information compromised, though security measures often don’t become a priority for people until after they’ve been hacked.

It’s extremely difficult to prevent identity theft, considering how commonplace data breaches are, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to protect yourself. There’s a good chance you’ll have your personal information stolen a few times throughout your lifetime, but the sooner you catch someone misusing it, the better off you’ll be.

You can easily detect credit and debit card fraud by checking your account transactions on a daily basis — you use your cards daily, so it makes sense to track your account activity just as often — because you’ll want to cut off a thief before they make a mess of your finances.

If someone gets a hold of your Social Security number or other personally identifying information that help them open fraudulent accounts in your name, things are a little tricker. Thieves can get away with a lot without victims catching on, but if you’re checking your credit reports and scores regularly, you’re in a good position to catch fraud. If you’ve been looking at the same credit score regularly and it changes without warning, it could be a sign someone has stolen your identity and opened accounts in your name. If an account you don’t recognize shows up on your credit report, that’s another indication someone has misused your personal information.

If you’re looking for free ways to monitor your credit, you can get your free annual credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can check your credit scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com. The more informed you are about your credit status, the easier it will be for you to keep it in good shape and out of the hands of fraudsters.

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