Security Breaches Expose Private Information of Military Families - NBC4 Washington
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Security Breaches Expose Private Information of Military Families

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    A pair of security breaches compromised the private information of some U.S. Army families, according to a report by the News4 I-Team in Washington, D.C. (Published Friday, Sept. 25, 2015)

    A pair of security breaches has compromised the private information of some U.S. Army families, according to a report by the News-4 I-Team in Washington, D.C.

    The families’ medical histories, social security numbers, home addresses and child daycare information were made vulnerable. Unauthorized people or contractors have viewed the private information of at least 82 of those families, according to the federal General Services Administration, the agency that suffered the breached.

    The agency's inspector general says as many as 8,000 of the 9,000 Army families that use the program may have had their information compromised.

    These breaches add injury to injury: These families were all part of the U.S. Army Fee Assistance program, a program that has struggled to provide subsidies to Army parents who use private daycare services.

    The program's managers and the GSA were brought before Congress earlier this month after Army families complained about late subsidy payments, which have triggered a series of financial hardships for the families. In at least one case, the late payments led an Army parent to declare personal bankruptcy.

    News4 exposed the late payments in July.

    Internal agency auditors have also revealed a major backlog of thousands of unreturned phone calls, emails and records requests from those Army families who were seeking the late payments.

    The GSA has offered credit monitoring services to all 9,000 families who use the program.

    Internal auditors found the GSA allowed contractors access to private information of families without first completing background checks and without requiring those contractors sign non-disclosure agreements.

    The auditors found the contractors included a person with a criminal warrant for his or her arrest and two people with financial problems, including a personal bankruptcy.

    In a second breach, the agency failed to properly encrypt the families’ personal information in a government database, auditors said. That breach was disclosed to other government agencies in June.

    Army captain Karmon Dyches said she’s suffered a series of financial hardships because of the management of the program.

    “It’s one thing to have your child care provider not be paid," Dyches said. "But it’s completely unacceptable to have your safety compromised.”

    Dyches said home addresses and family details are particularly sensitive for military families.

    A GSA spokeswoman said, “GSA takes its responsibility for the welfare of our military families seriously and understands it is critically important that GSA improve the operations of the Army Fee Assistance program. GSA apologizes to all of the Army families who have suffered frustrations and financial hardships.”

    The U.S. House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into the Army Fee Assistance program in the wake of a series of reports by the I-Team, detailing red tape, backlogs and late payments for families.

    The committee has also requested follow-up information about the agency’s response to the security breaches, the I-Team has learned.