A Department of Defense data breach has exposed the complete identities of potentially multiple high-ranking individuals, emphasizing the importance of businesses increasing their security protocols, and consumers monitoring and freezing their credit reports.

 When hackers break into a computer network, there are varying degrees of harm they can cause depending on what they are able to access. If they are able to install ransomware on the network and lock up the entire system, they might expect a handsome payoff. If they steal a database of customers’ names and emails, they might sell that information to spammers or use it for phishing attacks. However, when hackers manage to get complete identities—meaning names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and more—the possibilities are endless.

Considered a “Holy Grail” of identity theft, a complete record lets the hackers open new lines of credit, submit fraudulent tax returns, apply for government benefits or buy a house. And that is just in the short-term. They can continue using that identity potentially forever, and they can even sell it to other criminals who will do the same thing. The end result can be a never-ending spiral of ongoing identity theft.

Unfortunately, a 2019 Department of Defense data breach has exposed the complete identities of an undisclosed number of people. The real concern is the specific agency in question: the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, which handles IT support and all secure communications for the President, the Vice President and the Secret Service, just to name a few.

The group within the government that is tasked with protecting top-secret communications was infiltrated by hackers, and there is no word yet as to who it was and how much information they accessed. While DISA works on tightening its security protocols and systems, the individuals impacted by the Department of Defense data breach were issued a notification letter of the breach. The usual steps, like free credit monitoring for one year, are in place for those victims. In the meantime, this serves as yet another reminder that we all must be diligent about monitoring our credit reports, placing freezes on our credit reports if we do not need to use our credit soon, keeping our passwords up-to-date and other similar steps.

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