The incumbent United States government announced on Thursday that data of almost four million federal employees, former and current, from the Office of Personnel Management were hacked, targeting not just personal identification data, but also their Social Security numbers.
The intrusion, according to the office, might have begun late in 2014 and came from China, however, the same was only detected in April. Officials also are not sure whether the breach was State-sponsored.
Officials could not be certain whether the breach was initiated either for espionage or commercial purpose, but the government said there was “little doubt” the breach came from China. Despite that however, Obama administration did not publicly label the hackers as Chinese because officials said not only is ascribing the origin of intrusion tedious, but it is also equally difficult to substantiate a claim without comprising classified information.
In July 2014, a report was released that Chinese hackers targeted data of tens of thousands of employees who sought for “top-secret security clearances.” In the said breach, the data on security clearances were clearly helpful in identifying secret agents, scientists and other persons whose information may be interesting to foreign powers. The current federal cyberattack, however, was of greater breadth and the objective was unclear, news said.
Ironically, the revelations of federal intrusion came when a former N.S.A. contractor, Edward J. Snowden, disclosed the N.S.A had launched expanded warrantless spying on American soil in an attempt to scoop out evidence of cyberattack by foreign powers. Recently this week, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act in an effort to constrain N.S.A authority in its surveillance activities.
According to the New York Times, the intrusion is the third extensive breach into the U.S. federal computer database over the year. In 2014, it was reported that Russian hackers intruded into the email systems of both the State Department and the White House and Mr. Obama’s emails were read through.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said they are currently assessing the impact of the intrusion and will hold responsible the culprits as the U.S. takes seriously any threat to both the public and private sector systems. The Office of the Personnel Management is responsible for keeping federal employee data and security clearances.