While it may be hard for some to generate sympathy at this point, the Obama administration confirmed Thursday that The Office of Personnel Management was hit by a massive data breach that could have compromised the personal data of at least 4 million current and former federal employees.
The agency, which acts as the human resources department for the federal government and conducts more than 90 percent of federal background checks, said in a statement that it detected a “cyber-intrusion” into its systems in April.
The Washington Post reported that the hack was believed to have originated in China, which would make the incident the second major breach from the Chinese in less than a year. Sources told Fox News that the investigators were considering the possibility the attack was linked to another attack in October involving the White House. Fox News has also learned that the attack bears similarities to those carried out by nation states, not by criminal syndicates.
The Department for Homeland Security concluded at the beginning of May that data at the Office of Personnel Management and the Interior Department had been compromised. Names, addresses and social security information were compromised, and that the breach involved an “advanced persistent threat” designed to harvest information covertly without crippling systems.
The OPM announced Thursday that it was sending notifications to approximately 4 million individuals whose personally identifiable information (PII) may have been accessed. However, the agency acknowledged that more individuals could have been affected.
“Since the investigation is on-going, additional PII exposures may come to light; in that case, OPM will conduct additional notifications as necessary,” the agency said in a statement.
The Associated Press, which first reported the breach, cited officials saying that the breach could potentially affect every federal agency.
Sources: AP, Fox News, Washington Post