In what clearly appears to be the largest cyberattack into the systems of the United States government, the Obama administration on Thursday revealed that 21.5 million people were swept up in a colossal breach of government computer systems. The breach was reported earlier, however number have come in today, reports New York Times.
This breach resulted in the theft of a vast trove of personal information, including sensitive information like Social Security Numbers and fingerprints of certain citizens.
According to the Office of Personnel Management, every person given a government background check for the last 15 years was probably affected.
The agency said that the attack originated in China, but they declined to pinpoint a perpetrator, adding that they had indications that the same actor carried out the two hacks, the second one being a breach revealed last month that compromised personal data of 4.2 million federal employees.
The hackers apparently, stole “sensitive information,” including addresses, health and financial history, and other private details, from 19.7 million people who had been subjected to a government background check, as well as 1.8 million others, including their spouses and friends.
This incident that we are talking about today is unfortunately not without precedent.
said Michael Daniel, the White House cybersecurity coordinator.
We have to raise our level of cybersecurity in both the private sector and the public sector.
Katherine Archuleta, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, who has been target to criticism from members of the Congress in both parties because of these cyber attacks said that she would not resign.
I am committed to the work that I am doing at O.P.M. We are working very hard, not only at O.P.M. but across government, to ensure the cybersecurity of all our systems, and I will continue to do so.
She announced that new security measures are on their way to be installed at the agency as well as free credit and identity theft monitoring for the victims of the breach.
Despite this, national security officials believe that this was a very serious breach with FBI director James B. Comey, Jr. calling the breach “a very big deal,” noting that the information obtained included people’s addresses; details on their neighbours, friends and relatives; their travel destinations outside the United States; and any foreigners they had come into contact with.
There is a treasure trove of information about everybody who has worked for, tried to work for or works for the United States government.
Mr. Comey said during a briefing.
Just imagine you are an intelligence service and you had that data, how it would be useful to you.
According to Gregory C. Wilshusen, the director of information security issues at the Government Accountability Office, warnings from auditors about serious vulnerabilities are often ignored by agency officials, which leads them to face these sort of breaches. He says that the officials report that they have taken corrective actions, but when one goes back to check, they find that they haven’t.
Ms. Archuleta, whose agency had been warned in a series of reports since 2007 about the many vulnerabilities on its antiquated computer systems, was one of the first people to be called in after this incident.