As cyberattacks and security breaches continue to grab headlines around the world and across industries, the IRS is doing what it can to ensure that taxpayer information isn’t being compromised. The latest move has been to remove the Electronic Filing Personal Identity Numbers (e-filing PIN) tool from both IRS.gov and the toll-free phone service. The government agency cited “additional questionable activity” as the impetus for the change, which suggests that yes, someone was trying yet again to hack the IRS.
In a statement released late last week, the IRS called the move a “precautionary step to protect taxpayers.” While the e-File PIN previously served as an alternative signature verification method, the agency noted that “most taxpayers do not need an e-File PIN to file electronically,” and can instead “use their prior-year adjusted gross income from copies of their prior year tax returns.” As such, it seems only logical for the agency to rid themselves of a tool that is not only unnecessary, but potentially dangerous.
Back in February, the tax-collecting arm of the government announced that an automated bot attack program managed to access over 100,000 e-File PINs. And while only the PIN was revealed and no taxpayer data was compromised, this was still a major cause for concern, especially since hackers had to use taxpayers’ names, addresses, filing status, dates of birth, and social-security numbers to access the e-File PIN. Since then, the IRS has assured taxpayers that “additional defenses were added inside the IRS processing systems for protection, including extra scrutiny for any return with an e-File PIN,” which revealed further evidence of attempted attacks.
So now, they’re hoping to go straight to the source, and eliminate these PINs altogether.
Functionally, this decision probably won’t affect you — indeed, the IRS says that only “a smaller segment of taxpayers who have not filed their tax returns this year and need a replacement e-File PIN” will even notice the difference. But it’s yet another sign of the increasingly volatile digital times we live in.