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TSP offers free credit monitoring after cyber breach

Board stands by hacked third-party contractor Serco.

The Thrift Savings Plan advisory board is offering one year of free credit monitoring services to the tens of thousands of TSP participants whose private information was compromised by a sophisticated cyberattack on a government contractor’s computer.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and contractor Serco Inc. announced last week that they had learned in April of a July 2011 attack on a Serco computer that led to “unauthorized access” to personal information such as names, addresses and Social Security numbers of 123,000 recipients of TSP payments.

Experts say the attack could be part of a more extensive breach of U.S. government information, according to Government Executive’s sister publication, Nextgov.

Despite the attack, FRTIB director of external affairs Kim Weaver said the board would continue to trust its outside contractors and cautioned federal employees to discount “the idea that if [the attack] was on a different computer that somehow it would have been protected.”

Weaver added, “We don’t want to give anyone false hope that if you change contractors it gets better. Given the sophistication of the attack just changing a computer doesn’t mean anything. The threat is constantly evolving so everyone has to evolve.”

Participants affected by the breach were slated to receive notification by mail on Tuesday with information about how to enroll in the credit monitoring services FRTIB is providing.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said the union supports the steps the board is taking, including providing credit monitoring, regularly reviewing personal financial data and issuing fraud alerts. The union will encourage its members to take advantage of the credit monitoring the board will provide.

“It is particularly distressing to learn of a breach of the systems of a third-party contractor,” Kelley said Tuesday. “NTEU will continue to monitor this situation and review enhanced security measures that are being implemented with the TSP board.”

The board and Serco have formed a response team to conduct a systemwide review of computer security procedures and will receive alerts to their internal records to provide additional scrutiny of affected accounts.

The contract with Serco began in 2006, after the Office of Personnel Management’s National Finance Center said it could no longer provide record-keeping services for TSP.

(Image via apdesign/Shutterstock.com)