Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Data Leak Exposes Data Of 2.3M Survivors

It has been reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) has disclosed a data leak that exposed banking details and other personal information of 2.3 million survivors. 

Expert Comments Below: 

Tim Mackey, Senior Technical Evangelist at Synopsys: 

At the risk of becoming political, the disclosure by FEMA that it released identifiable information to a contractor about requests made by disaster victims for temporary housing shows the lack of controls in place within organisations around PII. Once disclosed to the contractor, FEMA likely lost visibility into what data sharing and controls were around this information. That the name of the contractor was redacted from the disclosure means the impacted individuals have no way to determine if they’re impacted should the contractor also suffer a data breach or have similarly poor data governance controls in place. 

This situation shows the level of trust citizens place in their governments to properly manage their personal information. Governments are just as susceptible to data breaches and data mismanagement as corporations, but data security at a governmental level must be held to a higher standard. Were I in the role of CISO at FEMA, I would immediately be conducting an audit of what PII is retained, how its being managed, who has access to it and under which conditions, and under what conditions it is shared externally to the Agency. In doing so, and publishing a set of expectations around data management, confidence in FEMA operations could improve.” 

Sam Curry, Chief Security Officer at Cybereason:

“The FEMA data breach again reminds us of the day-to-day challenges facing gov’t agencies and all organisations. Regarding FEMA, we want job #1 to be connecting and helping people above all else, especially when meshing unexpected and unpredictable State and Local, Federal Agency, international aid (such as is common from Canada and Mexico) and regional constituents.

At the outset, this appears to be an issue with old data implying issues with archival and permanent infrastructure. FEMA changes dramatically with administrations, changeovers and funding and technology. Let’s not assume culpability until we know the whole story. FEMA should take the time between crises to do this right and to prepare well and have policies for data destruction when it “expires” in place as soon as possible.  It is extremely important that we not lose confidence in this agency. It is vital to the USA and all our people. So figure it out as you’re supposed to be good at crisis management after all.” 

 

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