After a year of investigation, officials found multiple incidents of internal hacking and computer fraud at an immigration application processing center. The incidents involved staff members accessing management level emails and files according to reports.
The probe was initiated in January 2008 when officials at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services reported to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General of violations of federal security rules at the Texas Service Center of the USCIS. The USCIS is one of the agencies under the DHS.
The investigation found that employees and supervisors abused system log on privileges and gained unauthorized access to files. They covered their tracks by sabotaging audit logs. The center handles immigration related petitions and applications and in the unauthorized log ins, there were seventeen names were accessed. All of them were information technology specialists.
These incidents are just one of a long list of insider hacking events at the USCIS. With illegal entry, the personnel in the Texas office would be able to grant citizenship as well read files with sensitive information on contracts, immigration reform and other policy activities. The insider hacking was discovered through a system of hackware software embedded in USCIS computer drives. With the software, business information can be reviewed and intercepted as it goes through the agency’s system network.
Other instances include a senior officer asking for the logins and passwords from all under his watch in the service center, granting unlimited but unauthorized access to all that is happening at the facility. Under federal computer fraud laws, it is prohibited to use administrator passwords without the proper authorization. In another incident, God rights were given to senior officials, as subordinate emails were read and reviewed.
In another complication, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas refused to prosecute the subjects of the investigation for criminal computer fraud, in reports found by the DHS Inspector General.
In a statement, “the USCIS demands that our employees maintain the highest ethical standards. When allegations of misconduct are made, USCIS takes immediate action to protect the integrity of the workplace and to ensure that the facts are investigated fully. USCIS is committed to taking full and appropriate disciplinary action against any employee who is found to have violated our standards.”