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Auditors increase oversight of TSP’s cybersecurity

Mar. 25, 2013 - 05:08PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

The agency in charge of the Thrift Savings Plan faces more Labor Department scrutiny following a major 2011 cyber attack.

“Our program is going to be greatly expanded,” William Bailey, a senior Labor auditor, told the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board on Monday. “We’re going to look heavily at [information technology] areas that we have not had an opportunity to look at in the past due to funding restrictions.”

Bailey works for Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, which serves as the TSP’s auditor. The agency and its contractor, KPMG, are examining the TSP’s investment management operations and the handling of publicity for the TSP’s Roth investment option launched last May. Bailey said that Labor plans to triple the amount spent on oversight work compared to last year. He declined to give dollar figures because of “current governmentwide budget uncertainties.”

In the July 2011 cyber attack, names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and other personal information for 123,000 TSP participants were stolen from a computer operated by Serco Inc., a contractor that provides record-keeping for employees, service members and beneficiaries with accounts.

Both the board and Serco learned of the attack almost a year later, when notified last April by the FBI. The bureau’s investigation of the breach is continuing, with no charges filed at this point, spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire said in a phone interview Monday. FBI officials have not said when they learned of the attack or explained why the TSP board was not notified until April.

Although the board has yet to fully address 10 previous audit recommendations to beef up IT security, it has a “firm plan” for doing so, Executive Director Greg Long said Monday. After holding the first 90 minutes of Monday’s monthly meeting in public, the board closed the session to discuss security issues.

TSP enrollment

Enrollment in the TSP has rebounded since the stock market bottomed out in early 2009, according to an analysis of Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) members also released at the meeting.

Almost 86 percent of eligible FERS employees participated in TSP as of the end of last month — up from 81.5 percent four years ago — said Renee Wilder, the board’s director of research and strategic planning. She attributed the growth to several factors, including the improved stock market and automatic TSP enrollment of new hires begun in 2010.

Interest in the Roth investment option continues to surge. As of last month, the number of Roth account holders totaled about 147,000, Wilder said, up almost 50 percent since the end of December. Among Army, Air Force and Navy service members who were able to make their first Roth contributions in November, “we’re getting about 10,000 new accounts a month,” she added.

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