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article imageIRS suspends Equifax 'Taxpayer Identity' contract during review

By Karen Graham     Oct 14, 2017 in Technology
Atlanta - An Equifax spokesperson confirmed on Friday the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had issued a stop-work order for the short-term "Transaction Support for Identity Management contract."
The suspension of the contract with Equifax to "verify taxpayer identities" came about after the Equifax site was hit by hackers again, this time, delivering a fraudulent Adobe Flash update that could trick visitors into installing software that automatically displays advertising material.
"We remain confident that we are the best party to perform the services required in this contract,” the Equifax spokesperson said, according to Reuters. “We are engaging IRS officials to review the facts and clarify available options.”
It should be noted that the IRS is the first organization to say publicly it is suspending a contract with the credit rating reporting agency since Equifax's security problems came to light. The Atlanta, Georgia-based company insists its systems were not compromised by the incident on October 12.
But the IRS says it decided to put a hold on the short-term contract anyway, while they are conducting their own investigation. In a statement, the IRS said, “During this suspension, the IRS will continue its review of Equifax systems and security. There was no indication that any of the IRS data shared with Equifax under the contract had been compromised."
An "Alert" is on the IRS website
During the suspension of the contract, and while the IRS is doing its investigation, the IRS will not be able to create new accounts for taxpayers using its Secure Access portal which supports applications including online accounts and transcripts. Users who already have Secure Access accounts will not be affected.
IRS Deputy Commissioner for Operations Jeffrey Tribiano testified before Congress last week, saying that because of federal contracting rules, it was obligated to reward the contract to Equifax. Equifax had also objected to losing the contract to another company.
Tribiano also said the IRS would have had to shutter the agency's Secure Access portal or grant Equifax a so-called "bridge contract" while the Government Accountability Office (GAO ) was given time to investigate Equifax's protest. However, the GAO says federal contracting rules do give the IRS some flexibility.
"Congress gave agencies, like IRS, the tools to move forward under appropriate situations. They appear to be electing not to use it," Chuck Young, a GAO spokesperson, told The Hill last week, according to Ars Technica.
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