A Breach of Security, A Breach of Trust

Written by Alex Bach

You’ve learned to be weary of shady companies giving out personal information, and you’ve (hopefully) learned to protect yourself and stay away from such people/companies/services.

But what if it’s your own government that caused the leak of your valuable information?  No, we’re not talking Edward Snowden,this was USIS (U.S. Investigations Services) a private security company in charge of performing background checks is responsible for this horrendous breach.

Leaks like these show you just how important it is to protect yourself from identity theft, and, moreover to always be prepared as apparently trusted sources can put us in danger too. Here are some helpful ways you can protect yourself from the risk of identity theft.

The Big Breach

From 2008 to 2010, USIS was contracted by the U.S. government to conduct background searches on over 1 million people–taking $12 million in bonuses as they did so.

As CNN reports, the company faked many of the background checks and then flushed the content with a computer system that would then label them complete; they report as many as 665,000 background checks may have been fraudulent, roughly forty-percent of the whole.

What’s additionally concerning is that USIS’s spokeswoman called the breach a minor infraction on their otherwise high- quality standards.

If 665,000 people can be considered a small breach in standards one can only imagine the kind of standards they actually hold themselves to. And considering they took the bonus money, they apparently thought it was a job well done.

Perhaps a mea culpa would have been better. We’ll see how that holds up as U.S. prosecutors filed charges for breach of contract, falsifying statements, and fraudulent crimes.

What Should We Take Away?

What this proves is that information breaches can come from anywhere: it can come from outright targets by malicious illegal groups (such as the recent Target breach) or it could come from, in this case, laziness and a callous, casual attitude about the value of security, privacy and information.

We unfortunately live in a world where our digital lives can impact much of our physical lives, and those digital lives can be stolen and sold out from under us. It’s now more important than ever to protect ourselves–both our physical selves and our digital selves–from piracy and exposure.