TSP Hackers: The Naked Truth

Wednesday - 5/30/2012, 2:01am EDT

There is a reason that folks in nudist camps play volleyball, instead of poking bee hives with sticks.

Let that mental picture soak in. Get it?

Point is that some things, no matter how lucrative or fun they might seem, just aren't worth the risk. Example: A life of crime can be rewarding or, more often, pretty tough. One day you are on top, the next you are busted. Literally and figuratively. If Jesse James is your role model, here are some things to avoid which will add years to your time on the street — as opposed to jail.

Things on the not-to-do list include:

A) Torching the house of a firefighter, especially if he or she is home.

B) Stealing a cop's car.

C) Attempting a home invasion if the residents include half a dozen Army Rangers, Navy Seal or members of the Marine Recon trying to get some rest.

D) Hacking into the personal financial data base with very personal belongings to folks who work for the FBI, Secret Service and the DEA, or who are IRS agents, DHS money-trackers, Postal Inspectors and National Security Agency spooks.

None of the above are a good idea. At best, you might be caught, beat up or shot. At worst, you could wind up with a number instead of a name, bunking in a small cell with a guy named Mungo who uses way too much cheap aftershave. Lights out is not the announcement you want to hear!

Of all the horrible options listed above, the worst choice may be D. That is hacking into the Thrifts Savings Plan's $313 billion data bank which some clever-but-stupid person, persons or government did recently.

What we know so far is that the hacker(s) got data on 123,000 individuals, including the name, Social Security and bank account numbers of about 43,000 people. About 80,000 of the "compromised" accounts had "only" Social Security numbers and other TSP-related data that was stolen. According to what we know, most of the 4.4 million TSP accounts are still secure. As of last week, the board that runs the TSP said there was no indication that any of the data — which in some cases included bank account routing numbers — had been "misused."

Reaction from feds, active and retired, covers the waterfront. Some are angry and stunned that it happened. Others wonder why it took so long to announce the information. Others shrug, hope they dodged a bullet, and figure that in this day and age even the safest online data is not 100 percent safe.

There will be lots more to come from this. Members of Congress and their staffers have TSP accounts too.

It may be awhile before we find out whether the hacker was a pimply-faced geek operating from a yurt in central Asia, or a condo in Amsterdam. Or maybe it was a foreign government. Perhaps North Korea is looking for new ways to make mischief following the flop of its transcontinental missile.

If it is an individual or group, be advised Uncle Sam is on the case. And this one is up close and personal.

If it is found to be a foreign government, residents of the country in question might want to stock up on candles, and to unplug their computers for the duration.

Covering Your Assets:

At 10 a.m. today on our Your Turn radio show, attorney Tom O'Rourke tells how feds and retirees can reduce their tax bite and take control of their finances and estate by choosing wills, powers of attorney and trusts.

Later in the show, Federal Times senior writer Stephen Losey will have an update on the TSP data breach and the latest on buyouts.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jolie Lee

Why do we blush when we have to take our clothes off? British researchers theorized that the shame associated with nudity was codified in society to protect mating pairs. Humans are one of the few mammals that mate for life. "The thinking goes that humans' natural gregariousness and need to interact outside the family group, coupled with nakedness, created too many temptations to stray from the mating pair," according to Mental Floss.


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