IRS puts Equifax contract on hold during security review

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has temporarily suspended a contract worth more than $ 7 million it recently awarded to Equifax Inc following a security issue with the beleaguered credit reporting agency’s website on Thursday.

Equifax, which disclosed last month that cyber criminals breached its systems between mid-May and late July and made off with sensitive data on 145.5 million people, said on Thursday it shut down one of its website pages after discovering that a third-party vendor was running malicious code on the page.

“The IRS notified us that they have issued a stop-work order under our Transaction Support for Identity Management contract,” an Equifax spokesperson said on Friday.

“We remain confident that we are the best party to perform the services required in this contract,” the spokesperson said. “We are engaging IRS officials to review the facts and clarify available options.”

The IRS is the first organization to say publicly that it is suspending a contract with Equifax since the credit reporting agency’s security problems came to light.

Atlanta-based Equifax said its systems were not compromised by the incident on Thursday, which involved bogus pop-up windows on the web page that could trick visitors into installing software that automatically displays advertising material.

Still, the IRS said it decided to temporarily suspended its short-term contract with Equifax for identity-proofing services.

“During this suspension, the IRS will continue its review of Equifax systems and security,” the agency said in a statement. There was no indication that any of the IRS data shared with Equifax under the contract had been compromised, it added.

The move means that the IRS will temporarily be unable to create new accounts for taxpayers using its Secure Access portal, which supports applications including online accounts and transcripts. Users who already had Secure Access accounts will not be affected, the IRS said.

IRS granted the $ 7.25 million contract to Equifax on Sept. 29, weeks after Equifax disclosed the massive data hack that drew scathing criticism from several lawmakers.

“From its initial announcement, the timing and nature of this IRS-Equifax contract raised some serious red flags … we are pleased to see the IRS suspend its contract with Equifax,” Republican Representatives Greg Walden and Robert Latta said in a joint statement on Friday.

“Our focus now remains on protecting consumers and getting answers for the 145 million Americans impacted by this massive breach,” they said.

Government contracts in areas such as healthcare, law enforcement, social services, and tax and revenue, are major sources of revenue for Equifax.

In 2016, government services made up 5 percent of Equifax’s overall $ 3.1 billion in revenue, accounting for 10 percent of its workforce solutions revenues, 3 percent of its U.S. information solutions revenues, and 7 percent of its international revenues, according to a regulatory financial filing.

Reporting by John McCrank in New York; additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Bill Rigby

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Everything We'll Be Watching for During the Emmys

For years the Emmys were the place that Modern Family went to pick up something pretty for the mantle. But that’s all changing thanks to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Now streaming services compete—and win—right alongside their big network counterparts. With more players in the game, television studios are starting to pony up for really creative shows to grab attention. All of this has lead to a lot of amazing TV. In anticipation of the Emmys, which air tonight at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific on CBS, WIRED’s editors spent last week reflecting on our favorite shows of the last year—and why we think they deserve to be rewarded.

The Handmaid’s Tale Reinvented Dystopia

The Handmaid’s Tale couldn’t have come to Hulu at a better—or worse—time. The adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel started production in 2016, when it looked like the United States was on a course to elect its first female president; it got released in 2017, after that same country elected a man who dismissed his use of the phrase “grab ‘em by the pussy” as locker room talk and saw a swell of white nationalism in its borders. Atwood’s dystopian world of Gilead was modeled after an America that had succumbed to totalitarian theocratic rule. It’s not quite Trump’s America—but as The Handmaid’s Tale’s first 10 episodes rolled out, it was hard not to see similarities. (Read the rest of Angela Watercutter’s appreciation of  The Handmaid’s Tale.)

The Handmaid’s Tale couldn’t have come to Hulu at a better—or worse—time. The adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel started production in 2016, when it looked like the United States was on a course to elect its first female president; it got released in 2017, after that same country elected a man who dismissed his use of the phrase “grab ‘em by the pussy” as locker room talk and saw a swell of white nationalism in its borders. Atwood’s dystopian world of Gilead was modeled after an America that had succumbed to totalitarian theocratic rule. It’s not quite Trump’s America—but as The Handmaid’s Tale’s first 10 episodes rolled out, it was hard not to see similarities. (Read the rest of Angela Watercutter’s appreciation of  The Handmaid’s Tale.)

How Atlanta Expanded the Limits of Storytelling

Atlanta, akin to the city itself, is pure sprawl—thematically sweeping if sometimes implausibly lush, with its cabal of lovably thorny characters and its conceptually exhaustive format. Much to the credit of Donald Glover and his all-black writers’ room, it is a show without a roadmap that isn’t afraid to take detours to uncharted territories (or get lost and find its way back). As such, the Emmy-nominated comedy (it’s up for four awards on Sunday) has no precedent. In the short history of contemporary television, there have been more than a handful of shows that have traversed the highs and lows of black life—some of them exceptional, most of them simply OK. But there’s never been a vision quite as specific and as versatile and as wonderfully gonzo as Atlanta: It speaks with a cultural knowingness that, until its debut, had never been given space on TV. (Read the rest of Jason Parham’s appreciation of Atlanta.)

Atlanta, akin to the city itself, is pure sprawl—thematically sweeping if sometimes implausibly lush, with its cabal of lovably thorny characters and its conceptually exhaustive format. Much to the credit of Donald Glover and his all-black writers’ room, it is a show without a roadmap that isn’t afraid to take detours to uncharted territories (or get lost and find its way back). As such, the Emmy-nominated comedy (it’s up for four awards on Sunday) has no precedent. In the short history of contemporary television, there have been more than a handful of shows that have traversed the highs and lows of black life—some of them exceptional, most of them simply OK. But there’s never been a vision quite as specific and as versatile and as wonderfully gonzo as Atlanta: It speaks with a cultural knowingness that, until its debut, had never been given space on TV. (Read the rest of Jason Parham’s appreciation of Atlanta.)

Westworld’s Strength Is Its Inhumanity

One scene from Westworld replays in my head again and again, a little like (I imagine) one of the poor, doomed robots on the show who start noticing and remembering the programmatic loops in their simulated, hyper-violent Old West sandbox game. It’s when the android Maeve, played by Thandie Newton, grabs a technician’s tablet showing the dashboard for her personality software and, with a deft finger swipe, upgrades herself to genius. Yes, maybe taking control of your life by literally taking control of your life is a teensy bit on the nose. But for me it was the best flicker of weirdness from a show that—again, like its robots—dreamed big dreams. (Read the rest of Adam Rogers’ appreciation of Westworld.)

One scene from Westworld replays in my head again and again, a little like (I imagine) one of the poor, doomed robots on the show who start noticing and remembering the programmatic loops in their simulated, hyper-violent Old West sandbox game. It’s when the android Maeve, played by Thandie Newton, grabs a technician’s tablet showing the dashboard for her personality software and, with a deft finger swipe, upgrades herself to genius. Yes, maybe taking control of your life by literally taking control of your life is a teensy bit on the nose. But for me it was the best flicker of weirdness from a show that—again, like its robots—dreamed big dreams. (Read the rest of Adam Rogers’ appreciation of Westworld.)

The Night Of’s Single Season Is the Future of TV

Last year’s best case for restraint was The Night Of, the hypnotic HBO legal miniseries created by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian. Which is not to say The Night Of didn’t have blind spots. It did, thematically and narratively—lazy detective work; the sluggish pacing of certain scenes—but the complete product was a small triumph: a sneakily crafted urban noir about the justice system that was ambitious and pragmatic in palatable doses. The show never overcompensated (if anything, the plot sometimes didn’t say enough). In this way, The Night Of was less of a whodunit and more of a close look at the contours of human identity—the way a single event radically alters the lives of the people it touches. (Read the rest of Jason Parham’s appreciation of The Night Of.)

Last year’s best case for restraint was The Night Of, the hypnotic HBO legal miniseries created by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian. Which is not to say The Night Of didn’t have blind spots. It did, thematically and narratively—lazy detective work; the sluggish pacing of certain scenes—but the complete product was a small triumph: a sneakily crafted urban noir about the justice system that was ambitious and pragmatic in palatable doses. The show never overcompensated (if anything, the plot sometimes didn’t say enough). In this way, The Night Of was less of a whodunit and more of a close look at the contours of human identity—the way a single event radically alters the lives of the people it touches. (Read the rest of Jason Parham’s appreciation of The Night Of.)

O.J.: Made in America Is a Masterful Feat of Editing

O.J.: Made in America is, to be sure, a feat of raw reportage—director Ezra Edelman and his producers conducted more than 70 interviews. But what editors Bret Granato, Maya Mumma, and Ben Sozanski accomplished was equally remarkable. They distilled hundreds of hours and countless narratives into a nearly eight-hour-long panoramic about everything from politics to race to the media—and somehow wrapped it all into a can’t-turn-away thriller. (Read the rest of Brian Raftery‘s appreciation of O.J.: Made in America.)

O.J.: Made in America is, to be sure, a feat of raw reportage—director Ezra Edelman and his producers conducted more than 70 interviews. But what editors Bret Granato, Maya Mumma, and Ben Sozanski accomplished was equally remarkable. They distilled hundreds of hours and countless narratives into a nearly eight-hour-long panoramic about everything from politics to race to the media—and somehow wrapped it all into a can’t-turn-away thriller. (Read the rest of Brian Raftery‘s appreciation of O.J.: Made in America.)

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