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News broke out today that a ‘massive data breach’ was carried out which is affecting millions of workers in the US government. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) confirmed today that the data of nearly 4 million current and past employees is being affected.
It’s only been more or less six months since an anonymous hack in the Department of Homeland Security left 25,000 of its employees exposed and now this. Susan Collins of the Senate Intelligence Committee claims that the attacks originate from China.
On the other hand, the Chinese Embassy in Washington has warned the US government against ‘jumping to conclusions’. Zhu Haiquan, the spokesman to the embassy, said the accusations are counterproductive and China is not responsible.
The OPM acts as the human resource for federal government, and claimed that the security clearance of government officials may be a prime target. OPM is currently contacting all affected personnel, offering assurance against identity fraud and theft.
A growing number of organizations are being targeted by these ‘organized cybercrime groups’, the most popular example of which is Sony Entertainment that fell to data breach only last year.
OPM stores information regarding performance reviews, training, and employee job assignments among others. Reports suggest that the sophisticated breach did not involve any clearance investigation or background checks. Susan Collins calls the breach:
“Yet another indication of a foreign power probing successfully and focusing on what appears to be data that would identify people with security clearances.”
OPM has been using Einstein, a new and integrated cyber security system that helped the organization detect cyber breaches earlier this year in April. The FBI launched a probe and is still investigating the intrusion.
Ken Ammon, the Chief Strategy Officer at Xceedium, a cyber security firm, has warned the US government on how hacked data may be employed in blackmailing, or otherwise impersonating federal employees who have access to sensitive data.
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