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By Kevin Freking of The Associated Press

At least eight foreign-sponsored organizations have hacked into computer networks at the Veterans Affairs Department in recent years or were actively trying to do so, a former VA computer security chief told Congress on Tuesday.

binarycodeJerry Davis, who served as the VA’s chief information security officer until February 2013, said in written testimony to a House subcommittee that the VA became aware of the computer hacking in March 2010 and that attacks continue “to this very day.”

Davis said the hacking “successfully compromised VA networks and data,” but he did not indicate how the information may have been used. The intrusions raise the potential for identity theft and could complicate efforts to share data with the Pentagon, long viewed as key to quicker processing of disability claims.

“The entire veteran database in VA, containing personally identifiable information on roughly 20 million veterans, is not encrypted, and evidence suggests that it has repeatedly been compromised since 2010 by foreign actors, including in China and possibly in Russia,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs oversight and investigations subcommittee.

Related: Is Your Computer Infected with ‘Malware’?

Officials with the VA’s inspector general’s office said the main threat to veterans would appear to be credit card theft. They also could not point to any specific instances in which such fraud has occurred. Officials also said hackers had obtained access to the emails of senior VA managers.

Linda Halliday, an assistant inspector general, said investigators were seeing fewer weaknesses with the VA’s computer security, but she told lawmakers that 4,000 weaknesses and vulnerabilities have not been addressed. She cited weak passwords and user accounts with inappropriate access as among the most common problems.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Photo: Brett Jordan/Flickr


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