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US Air Force scrambles after privacy breach

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The US Air Force has been forced to notify more than 33,000 airmen that their personal details might have been exposed following the discovery of a computer security breach. The notification comes after Air Force personnel officers discovered suspiciously high activity on one account into a careers database, called AMS (Assignment Management System), dating back to June.

A preliminary investigation suggests a hacker used a legitimate user's login information to access sensitive data from servers at the Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, the HQ of the Air Force's human resources operations. The motive for the attack remains unclear but affected air force personnel are being urged to take precautions in case their details are misused by ID thieves or the like. Meanwhile Air Force and federal investigators are investigating the breach, which is sadly reminiscent of the many consumer privacy breaches suffered by US corporations over recent months.

The AMS system is used for assignment preferences and career management and contains career information on officers and enlisted Airmen, as well as some personal information such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers. It does not contain personal addresses, phone numbers or information about family members.

A malicious user accessed approximately half of the officer force's individual information, according to Lt. Col. John Clarke, AFPC's deputy director of personnel data systems. Only a handful of non-commissioned officers were affected, he added.

"We notified Airmen as quickly as we could while still following criminal investigation procedures with the Office of Special Investigations," said Maj. Gen. Anthony F. Przybyslawski, Air Force Personnel Center commander. "Protecting Airmen's personal information is something we take very seriously, and we are doing everything we can to catch and prosecute those responsible under the law."

Maj. Gen. Przybyslawski added that the Air Force had tightened information security practices to guard against further attacks.

"We notified the individuals involved, outlining what happened and how they can best insulate themselves from this potential risk. We've taken steps to increase our system security. We're working with all Air Force agencies to identify vulnerabilities," he added. ®

External links

Federal Trade Commission guidelines for dealing with identity theft Air Force officers can login to the virtual military personnel flight (here) to see if their information was viewed. Enlisted airmen will be contacted directly but can reassure themselves by visiting AMS Information via Randolph Air Force Base's site.

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