Morning Security Brief: Increased U.S. Military Presence in Europe, Target Defends IT Security, and Potential Passport Fraud

By Holly Gilbert Stowell

► The White House has announced a $1 billion security fund to expand its military presence in Europe on a temporary basis, according to the Wall Street Journal. Congress will have to approve the measure, which includes an increase in rotation of troops, as well as a provision allowing the United States to “store more military equipment in Europe and for a greater Navy presence in the Black and Baltic seas.” President Obama announced the plan today during the first leg of a four-day trip to Europe, where he will meet with several central and eastern European leaders. During a visit to Warsaw today, the President assured Poland and neighboring nations that the United States is committed to the security of the region, especially in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis. Reuters reports that NATO defense ministers met today in Brussels to “look at long term measures to strengthen alliance defenses in eastern Europe and consider how to combat the tactics used by Russia in Ukraine.” According to the article, President Obama is facing pressure from NATO allies in Eastern Europe who worry they may become the next targets of Russian expansion.

► Target is defending the way it handles management and oversight of customer data ahead of its annual shareholders meeting next week. The New York Times reports that Roxanne Austin, interim chairwoman of Target’s board, explains in a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the company has taken various steps to increase its information security since the historic breach last December, such as “accelerating its conversion to a more secure payment-card technology on its branded cards and in its stores and hiring a new chief information officer.” The letter states that before the breach, the company had spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” on IT security, including an increase in IT staff and annual data security training for employees. Some shareholder advisory groups have already called for a majority of Target’s directors to not be re-elected. The company’s chief executive officer, Gregg Steinhafel, stepped down in early May.

► The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a study showing that U.S. passports have been issued to registrants using the names of deceased persons, incarcerated individuals, people with active felony warrants, or those who used an incorrect Social Security number. The study covered passports issued in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. But the GAO says that during those years, no pervasive fraud was found. For example, of the 28 million passports issued, 13,570 were issuances to “individuals who used the SSN, but not the name, of a deceased person.” They have ruled out fraud in several of the cases and are working further to rule it out in each case. The GAO says it used information from 2009 and 2010 because that is the most recent passport data available when it began its review. The State Department says it has taken steps to decrease fraud in the issuance of passports by intensifying its cross-check databases with other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, federal Bureau of Prisons, and U.S. Marshal’s Service.


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