The US government has been hit by a massive data breach. The Chinese hackers are suspected of carrying out the data breach of the personal data of nearly four million US government workers. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) confirmed that both current and past employees have been affected. The breach could potentially affect every federal agency according to BBC Reports.
US officials said that the hackers are believed to be based in China. Beijing responded by calling such claims “irresponsible”. OPM said it became aware of the breach in April when it was updating its cyber security systems. All the individuals who have been affected by the breach will be contacted and offering them 18 months of free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance. OPM serves as the human resource department for the federal government. The agency issues security clearances and compiles records of all federal government employees.
Information stored on OPM databases includes employee job assignments, performance reviews and training. However, the breach did not involve background checks and clearance investigations. The agency is contacting all of those potentially affected, offering to insure them against identity fraud. Of even greater concern may be the fact that security clearance information on government officials could have been targeted.
In the past year, a growing number of government agencies and companies in the US have fallen victim of such an attack like the Sony Pictures. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the hackers were believed to be based in China. She said that the breach is yet another indication of a foreign power probing successfully and focusing on what appears to be data that would identify people with security clearances. China in their defense denied the claims saying that it had no involvement in the attack. China and North Korea are believed to have enough man power to start a cyber war.
“Cyber attacks are generally anonymous and conducted across borders and their origins are hard to trace,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing. “Not to carry out a deep investigation and keep using words such as ‘possible’ is irresponsible and unscientific.”
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are said to be investigating the latest breach. Ken Ammon, chief strategy officer of Xceedium – a cyber security firm – warned that the hacked data could be used to impersonate or blackmail federal employees with access to sensitive information. Congressman Adam Schiff has called for cyber databases to be upgraded.
People always believe that the US is the most protected and the security can not be compromised, the many breaches that take place in the US always come as a surprise to many in the world. Kenya has once fallen victim of hacking when a police website was hacked but that was a low profile criminal activity as compared to the US breaches.