Hackers stole crucial information on 21.5 million people in a cyber-attack carried out in June this year. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) are responsible for 90% of federal background checks in the United States and I’m sure you can only imagine the quantity of sensitive data stored in their network. According to Sky News, this body confirmed the scale of the data breach and clarified the date of attack was on Tuesday. Shockingly, this follows a cyber-attack from last month which compromised information on 4.2 million government staff members. This even includes individuals who no longer work at a government position and changed their employment direction. The OPM have just released a statement which doesn’t make pretty reading and suggests the records stolen contain information on people’s mental health and financial history.
“If you underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterwards … it is highly likely that you are impacted by the incident involving background investigations.”
“If you underwent a background investigation prior to 2000, you still may be impacted, but it is less likely.”
Certain branches of US media are suggesting that Chinese hackers are behind the attacks. For example, ABC News argued:
“FBI Director James Comey said today he’s one of the millions and millions of Americans victimized by what U.S. officials suspect was a Chinese-sponsored heist of sensitive government records.”
This is still pure speculation and perhaps the bigger question is, were they funded by the Chinese government? According to the FBI Director James Comey,
I’m sure the adversary has my SF-86 now,”
“My SF-86 lists every place I’ve ever lived since I was 18. Every foreign travel I’ve ever taken. All of my family, [and] their addresses.”
Unfortunately, there isn’t any additional information disclosed which is expected given the secretive nature of citizen’s data. What is evidently clear is we all rely on networks which store vital information and these attacks are going to become more commonplace. Is the answer to research better security measures? Or perhaps the government should only collect small quantities of data and adopt a less Orwellian society.
Thank you Sky News for providing us with this information.