The Obama administration is now admitting that hackers stole the personal data of 21.5 million Americans from government computers. Originally government investigators said the breach affected about 4 million people.
Compromised in the hacking incident were Social Security numbers, medical records, employment histories and other sensitive information taken from the Office of Personnel Management’s computer servers. Although most of the data theft affected those who had applied for background investigations, nearly two million of the people affected weren’t applicants but instead were their spouses or other family members. An OPM statement says “If an individual underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterwards… it is highly likely that the individual is impacted by this cyber breach.”
The government investigators went on to say that they were increasingly confident that China’s government, not criminals are responsible for the break-in, which was first discovered in March 2014. China has publicly denied they launched the computer attack.
Utah Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is leading a Congressional effort looking for details about the hacks. In a letter to acting OPM Director Beth Cobert, Chaffetz he asked for details on what was taken, when the thefts occurred, who discovered the breaches, and how the response was handled. Chaffetz and other Republicans on the panel have called for the dismissal of Donna Seymour, OPM’s Chief Information Officer.
Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a senior member of the committee, says firings are not the answer. Connolly told FCW.com (a federal technology website) “that calls for firings divert attention from our failure in Congress to provide the necessary resources for investment in OPM and other federal agencies.” And Connolly added that “the United States is enmeshed in ongoing, but below-the-line cyber wars with China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, and that federal agencies are vulnerable targets for attack.