I had planned to save this for the lead off entry of What Annoys Jeff this Week, but the more I think on it, the more it deserves a stand alone place here – a permanent memorial to governmental incompetence that adds insult to injury.
The Office of Personnel Management – the central human resource office for the Executive Branch – over the last four months allowed person, persons, or nation-states unknown to access the personnel records of as many as 4 million current and former federal employees. I don’t know if I’m one of those employees yet because even though the news broke in wide circulation Friday – and OPM has known about it since at least April – they still have not notified the people whose information is “out there” in the wild. With four million records up for grabs, it feels like a safe bet that some or my information is in that mix.
“But,” they say, “this happens to the private sector all the time.” That’s partially true, but not nearly the same. This isn’t someone taking a quick imprint of your credit card and scamming you for a 2000 handbag. We’re talking about potentially every shred of information that Uncle Sham has collected about his employees – name, social security number, credit record, mother’s maiden name, names and addresses of people interviewed for security clearance checks, evaluations, bank account numbers, basically every bit of data someone needs to prove that you are you in the electronic world.
So that’s the injury.
The insult? Well OPM has very helpfully copied and pasted some information about how to prevent identity theft by “monitoring financial account statements and immediately report any suspicious or unusual activity to financial institutions.” Oh, they’re probably going to throw in some low-bidder credit monitoring service for as few months as they think they can get away with, but the message from echelons higher than reality thus far has been “Adios my friends, you’re on your own.”
Network security is hard. Got it. But historically the business of government is to do what is hard – to do what the individual can’t do on their own – build the interstates, land on the moon, forge a nation out of 13 newly independent states, and then conquer a continent. If they can’t be bothered to keep the password updated on the damned human resources database, honest to God I don’t have a clue what we’re even doing anymore.