Chinese Hack of U.S. Government Personnel Included Sensitive Security Clearance Information

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The Chinese breach of the Office of Personnel Management network was wider than first acknowledged, and officials said Friday that a database holding sensitive security clearance information on millions of federal employees and contractors also was compromised.

In an announcement, OPM said that investigators concluded this week with “a high degree of confidence” that the agency’s systems containing information related to the background investigations of “current, former and prospective” federal employees, and others for whom a background check was conducted, were breached.

OPM is assessing how many people were affected, spokesman Samuel Schumach said. “Once we have conclusive information about the breach, we will announce a notification plan for individuals whose information is determined to have been compromised,” he said.

The announcement of the hack of the security-clearance database comes a week after OPM disclosed that another personnel system had been compromised. The discovery of the first breach led investigators to find the second — all part of one campaign by the Chinese, U.S. officials say, evidently to obtain information valuable to counter­espionage.

“This is potentially devastating from a counter­intelligence point of view,” said Joel Brenner, a former top counter­intelligence official for the U.S. government, speaking about the latest revelation. “These forums contain decades of personal information about people with clearances . . . which makes them easier to recruit for foreign espionage on behalf of a foreign country.”

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SOURCE: Ellen Nakashima
The Washington Post

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