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Home Lead Story US Disaster Relief Agency 'FEMA' Exposed 2.3 Million Survivors' Data

US Disaster Relief Agency ‘FEMA’ Exposed 2.3 Million Survivors’ Data

Fema admitted the leak but said it had found no evidence that the improperly-shared data was compromised

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) exposed 2.3 million disaster survivors to possible identity theft, according to a new report.

The report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on Friday night said Fema improperly shared personal records of the survivors of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires, reports the BBC.

Fema admitted the leak but said it had found no evidence that the improperly-shared data was compromised.

Authorities said Fema shared participants’ home addresses and bank account information with a third party contractor.

FEMA
Semi trucks line up to pick up their loads at the San Juan Regional Supply Center before delivering the aid to those affected by Hurricane Maria, Oct. 12, 2017. Wikimedia

The survivors provided information to Fema in the course of applying for shelters.

More than 20 data fields were improperly shared with the contractor, the Office of Inspector General said in the report.

The name of the contractor was not made public.

Fema spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow said that the sensitive information had been removed from the system following a review, the BBC said.

“Since discovery of this issue, FEMA has taken aggressive measures to correct this error,” Litzow said on Friday night.

“Fema is no longer sharing unnecessary data with the contractor and has conducted a detailed review of the contractor’s information system.”

FEMA
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and its federal partners continue 24-hour operations to conduct missions in support of those affected by Hurricane Maria. Wikimedia

Fema has previously been censured for mishandling information. A 2015 review by the same government watchdog found that survivor’s records were stored at a disaster-response centre in California in open, unsecured cardboard boxes.

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Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August 2017, killing 68 people and causing about $125 billion in damage. Hurricane Irma struck Florida later the same month, killing 97 and causing $50 billion in damage.

Hurricane Maria killed more than 3,000 people in Puerto Rico and ravage the island.

The breach also included victims of the wildfires that swept through California in 2017, with 9,000 separate fires burning 1.2 million acres of land and killing at least 46 people. (IANS)

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