VA official 'perplexed' by lawmaker's claims of nation-state breach

VA official 'perplexed' by lawmaker's claims of nation-state breach
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Lawmakers and the Veterans Affairs Department are fighting over whether the department suffered a nation-state hack in September 2014, according to a Thursday report.

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R- Ind.) claimed during a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing that the VA had failed to catch the intrusion, and only found out when Congress notified VA officials.

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"This was substantiated by another government entity, after which the committee briefed Secretary [Bob] McDonald,” Walorski said.

But the agency’s chief information officer, Stephen Warren, rebutted the allegation after the hearing. According to Federal News Radio, he told reporters that the VA had investigated and found no evidence of a breach.

“I’m a little perplexed,” he said.

“We've had conversations with the National Security Council, we've head conversations with the Homeland Security Department, we've had conversations with the FBI and the counterintelligence and cyber crimes area,” Warren continued. “We've asked specifically, ‘Are you aware of [a breach]?’ and they've all come back and said, ‘No.’ ”

The VA has been under fire for lax data security before.

The Veterans’ Affairs Committee in November chastised Warren for data breaches that had exposed employee usernames and passwords in both 2010 and 2012.

Walorski also pressed the agency in a December letter for more details about a January 2014 infiltration of the department’s eBenefits website that compromised the data of 5,000 veterans

Warren told reporters Thursday his team will not stop its investigation of the most recent allegations.

“We will continue to work with individuals on the committee to run down the details,” he said. “I'll be blunt right now, we haven't seen anything and we haven't got anybody who can say, ‘This is what happened.’ ”