- The Washington Times
Monday, December 21, 2015

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is calling for federal legislators to expand identity theft coverage to federal workers after the data security breach at the Office of Personnel Management.

Ms. Norton, a Democrat and the District of Columbia’s nonvoting representative in Congress, and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, have introduced legislation that would provide free lifetime coverage for credit monitoring and identity theft protection for federal workers whose personal information was stolen in the OPM breach.

“Much of the OPM data that was stolen is permanent personal information that cannot be changed easily or at all — like birth dates, fingerprints and Social Security numbers,” Ms. Norton said. “By pressing OPM, we have improved coverage for those affected, but we do not intend to stop short of full protection.”

Since first reporting the breach in June, officials have said that as many as 21 million people may have been affected by the computer intrusion on OPM’s data systems — a cyberattack that is believed to have been launched by Chinese hackers in March 2014.

OPM offers federal workers 10 years of identity theft coverage and $5 million of identity theft insurance free of charge. Ms. Norton, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was instrumental in raising the agency’s coverage to its current levels.

“It’s gratifying that we are getting closer to the lifetime identity theft protection coverage that federal employees deserve, but we aren’t there yet,” she said, adding that the hackers are likely to wait out the 10-year coverage period and use the stolen data.

As of 2014, about 50,000 federal, nonmilitary workers live in the District, according to a Census Bureau study.

Several other metropolitan-area legislators have voiced their opinions on the data breach’s effect on the local federal workforce.

“I have heard from employees across the government. Data breaches undermine morale and complicate their ability to serve the American people,” Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, said in a statement. “This is a crisis, so we ought to treat it like one.”

Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat and a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the OPM should be working with the Internal Revenue Service to protect federal employees from tax fraud.

“There have already been reports that the credentials and identities of government breach victims are appearing for sale online to potential identity thieves,” Mr. Warner said in a June 23 letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “I am concerned that federal employees’ personal information could be used by scammers to fraudulently file a tax return next tax season.”

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