A mammoth cyber attack on the US government’s Office of Personnel Management was announced today by the DHS.
A mammoth breach of data in the government’s Office of Personnel Management was announced today, which comprised a massive leak of personal information on 4 million current and former federal employees. Susan Collins of the Senate Intelligence Committee is describing it as an “attack by Chinese hackers.” No corroborating evidence to support that theory had been presented as of Thursday evening.
The Obama administration began sending out notifications as it struggles to assess the extent of the impact.
The hack occurred in December when unknown persons gained access to the OPM computer system, but the intrusion wasn’t discovered until April when the OPM was using a new detection tool through the DHS named “Einstein.” Since that department acts as human resources for the federal government—assigning security clearances is part of its duty—the extent of the compromised data could present a number of problems, though sources claim none of the leaked information was particularly sensitive.
Intruders were seemingly able to access employee ratings, job assignments, and training records, but nothing related to background checks or clearance assignments for investigations.
Department of Homeland Security officials discovered the breach and issued a statement on the matter: “The FBI is conducting an investigation to identify how and why this occurred. DHS is continuing to monitor federal networks for any suspicious activity and is working aggressively with the affected agencies to conduct investigative analysis to assess the extent of this alleged intrusion.”
News of the hack echoes a similar incident reported in November, when a former DHS contractor announced that private files of 25,000 DHS employees and thousands of other federal workers had been compromised. Last month, the IRS disclosed a cyber-attack in which 100,000 people had personal information stolen. On Tuesday, the treasury inspector general for tax administration, J. Russell George, blamed that breach on lack of funding to improve security measures, saying to the Senate Finance Committee, “This incident provides a stark reminder that even security controls that may have been adequate in the past can be overcome by hackers, who are anonymous, persistent and have access to vast amounts of personal data and knowledge.”
“The cyber threat from hackers, criminals, terrorists and state actors is one of the greatest challenges we face on a daily basis, and it’s clear that a substantial improvement in our cyber databases and defenses is perilously overdue,” said Congressman Adam Schiff of the incident.
With this series of cyber follies coupled with the military’s ‘accidental’ transfer of live anthrax to multiple US labs and foreign countries, it would seem an appropriate time for the government to stop investing such extensive efforts to spy on its citizens—and turn the microscope on itself.
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