An influential Senate panel approved a key amendment that would help protect federal workers and contractors whose sensitive personal and financial data were poached by hackers, which could be used for malicious and fraudulent purposes.
The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment that will be folded into a massive government funding bill — the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act 2016 — that will extend at least 10 years of free credit monitoring services and at least $5 million in liability protection to workers and contractors whose personal information was stolen in a series of compromises of U.S. Office of Personnel Management electronic records.
The hacked data contained information from background checks on more than 20 million Americans who have direct and indirect ties to the federal government, including roughly 4 million past and current federal workers.
The hackers may have obtained Social Security numbers, job assignments, performance ratings, training information, healthcare records, fingerprints, and lengthy, potentially embarrassing, answers to invasive questions on background checks.
In a recent blog post, we documented the data breaches, their wide ranging impact, and the government’s scramble to rectify the issue, as well as offered tips and recommendations to affected workers to help them protect their personal information and identities.
To strengthen workers’ ability to protect their identities, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Maryland) introduced the amendment that was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 23, according to Federal Soup.
The 10-year credit monitoring requirement in the amendment is “more than three times longer than OPM originally offered” to affected workers and contractors, according to Government Executive.
OPM had offered three years of free credit and identity theft monitoring services. However, the government funding bill has yet to go before the House and Senate for vote.
The funding bill sets appropriation caps for a host of federal agencies, including the Department of the Treasury (and all agencies within that department including the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the IRS, and the U.S. Mint); several executive branch agencies including funding for The White House and the Council of Economic Advisers; and several departments of the judiciary.
Sen. Mikulski’s amendment is likely one of innumerable amendments that will be attached to the funding bill and hopefully voted on before the end of the government’s fiscal year in September.
Additional information about the bill and its journey through Congress can be reviewed by clicking here.
Sen. Mikulski’s staff also created a page on the senator’s website that provides additional tips and recommendations for workers and contractors affected by the breach. That can be reviewed by clicking here.