April 02, 2016

"Cyber-defense experts found security gaps in a State Department system that could have allowed hackers to doctor visa applications or pilfer sensitive data from the half-billion records on file, according to several sources familiar with the matter –- though defenders of the agency downplayed the threat and said the vulnerabilities would be difficult to exploit."

ABC News: Briefed to high-level officials across government, the discovery that visa-related records were potentially vulnerable to illicit changes sparked concern because foreign nations are relentlessly looking for ways to plant spies inside the United States, and terrorist groups like ISIS have expressed their desire to exploit the U.S. visa system, sources added. By Mike Levine and Justin Fishel

'“We are, and have been, working continuously...to detect and close any possible vulnerability,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement to ABC News.

'After commissioning an internal review of its cyber-defenses several months ago, the State Department learned its Consular Consolidated Database –- the government’s so-called “backbone” for vetting travelers to and from the United States –- was at risk of being compromised, though no breach had been detected, according to sources in the State Department, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

'As one of the world’s largest biometric databases –- covering almost anyone who has applied for a U.S. passport or visa in the past two decades -– the “CCD” holds such personal information as applicants’ photographs, fingerprints, Social Security or other identification numbers and even children’s schools.'

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