The government of the United States experienced its second hacking incident this year. The Office of Personnel Management said on Thursday that records of about 4 million current and former federal employees have been compromised in a breach it alleged were the works of Chinese hackers.
A report by CNN described the incident as the biggest breach ever to hit the U.S. government’s computer networks. It was found that the hackers targeted almost all of the country’s federal government agency, not just the OPM and the Department of Interior.
Reuters, citing an unidentified U.S. law enforcement source, reports that investigators are looking into a “foreign entity or government” as culprit for the latest cyber attack. A report of Washington Post, however, positively confirmed hackers working for the Chinese government made the intrusive actions.
The breach was discovered in April. Investigators said the intruders accessed information that included employees’ Social Security numbers, job assignments, performance ratings and training information. Officials at OPM couldn’t confirm if the hackers took data.
“As a result of the incident, OPM will send notifications to approximately 4 million individuals whose Personally Identifiable Information (PII) may have been compromised,” it said in a statement.
The breach, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told the Associated Press, was “yet another indication of a foreign power probing successfully and focusing on what appears to be data that would identify people with security clearances.”
As expected, the Chinese government denied any relations with the hackers and blasted the U.S. government for its irresponsible and “counterproductive” claims.
“Jumping to conclusions and making (a) hypothetical accusation is not responsible and is counterproductive,” Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhu Haiquan told Reuters.
Only those working for the legislative and judicial branches as well as uniformed military personnel were not affected by the cyber attack.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, described the breach as “disturbing.” And with this being the second time the U.S. government fell victim to cyber hackers, it is but just time to overhaul the system, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said.
“It’s clear that a substantial improvement in our cyber databases and defenses is perilously overdue,” Schiff said in a statement. “That’s why the House moved forward on cybersecurity legislation earlier this year, and it’s my hope that this latest incident will spur the Senate to action.”