IRS cybersecurity staff was cut as budget rose

The cybersecurity staff at the IRS was cut by 11 percent over four years, even as its budget increased by 9.7 percent, records show.

The finding, reported Thursday by Computerworld, sheds light on the IT circumstances at the agency as it grapples with the digital theft of more than 100,000 tax returns.

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Experts said the growth in cyber resources, coupled with a decrease in cyber staff, signals a greater use of IT outsourcing by the IRS.

In total, the agency had 410 cybersecurity workers in 2011 compared with 363 in 2014. The figures were gleaned from reports about IT spending at the IRS by the inspector general of the Treasury Department.

At the same time, spending on cybersecurity increased from $129 million in 2012 to $141.5 million in 2014, the IG reported.

The agency is reeling after Russian hackers allegedly stole returns for roughly 104,000 taxpayers through an online “Get Transcript” feature.

Instead of breaking into the network, the crooks imitated individuals to gain access using personal information gained in other data breaches.

The hackers were successful in more than half of their attempts to access the returns, raising questions about security at the agency and its counterparts throughout the federal government.

The agency is known for its out-of-date information technology. Commissioner John Koskinen said earlier this year that the IRS is running applications from “when John F. Kennedy was president.”

Still, the agency’s IT budget has risen, even as its overall appropriation goes down. The IRS was allocated $2.3 million for IT in 2013 and $2.5 billion in 2014, Computerworld reported.