by Ethan Barton
Internal Revenue Service officials don’t consistently report crucial information that ensures data backups are created and usable, a government watchdog reported Monday.
The IRS doesn’t know if its data backups are deleted or not created, and doesn’t test to ensure backups can be used if information is lost, even after a “significant” December 2014 incident, according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report.
“The IRS is not effectively managing its Tier II environment backup and restoration process,” the report said. “If the data is not backed up properly, a possibility exists that all taxpayer and management information could be lost and become unrecoverable.”
Tier II stores data such as emails and taxpayer information.
“IRS management does not have information to detect if a required backup is not created,” the report said.
The IRS also doesn’t have consistent procedures to ensure backups are created routinely. Instead, officials rely on “professional judgement,” the report said.
Additionally, the IRS “does not routinely test restore of backups to ensure the integrity and reliability of the data by performing restores,” the report said. “Without forming a strategy for backup restore testing, the IRS cannot be assured it will have reliable backup data when needed.”
But these management problems weren’t corrected, even after a data failure.
“The lack of management information about the backup process contributed to a significant incident in December 2014 when a backup needed to restore” an IRS database, “deleted in error, did not exist,” the report said. “In addition to finding that the IRS is not effectively managing this process, TIGTA found that the IRS did not take effective action following this incident.”
“The potential for these events to occur to other critical systems within the IRS still exists,” the report continued.
Email backups belonging to Lois Lerner – the official at the center of a scandal where the agency was targeting tax-exempt applications from Tea Party organizations – were improperly deleted, TIGTA reported in June 2015.
Additionally, the IRS was unable to recover data lost when Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011.