Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hacker may have netted USDA's Johanns ID data

Hacker may have netted USDA's Johanns ID data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and other top Agriculture Department officials are on the list of 26,000 people whose personal information may have been stolen by a computer hacker, USDA said on Friday.

At risk are their social security numbers, the agency said. The numbers could be used to fraudulently gain access to credit cards and other financial transactions.

Two press aides confirmed that data on Johanns and USDA's top-tier policymakers were in the database that was breached. One of them said all Washington-area USDA employees and contractors were affected.

USDA has around 15,000 workers on its Washington payroll. Officials were unable to say how far back the records went to reach 26,000 names.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner said the incident did not involve material used in USDA reports on crop and livestock output.

USDA said it will offer one year of free credit-monitoring services to the current and former employees and contractors affected by the computer breach, which occurred early this month.