Workplace Issues

Fed Breaches Hacked Info of Millions

More than 20 million people were affected by the data security breach at the Office of Personnel Management.
Katie Kuehner-HebertJuly 13, 2015
Fed Breaches Hacked Info of Millions

The U.S. federal government’s Office of Personnel Management said that the two breaches of its systems last year actually impacted more people than the office had initially calculated. In addition, hackers obtained access to the personal information of not only federal employees, but also their friends and family.

The news resulted in bipartisan pressure to oust Katherine Archuleta, OPM’s chief human resources officer, the Washington Times reported Friday. Archuleta resigned.

In April, the OPM had announced that the personnel data of 4.2 million current and former federal government employees had been stolen. But upon further investigation, OPM discovered that additional information had been compromised, including background investigation records of current, former, and prospective federal employees and contractors. The data include information on 19.7 million individuals that applied for a background investigation and 1.8 million non-applicants, primarily spouses or co-habitants of applicants. Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators and about 1.1 million include fingerprints.

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Usernames and passwords that background investigation applicants used to fill out their background investigation forms were also stolen, the OPM said.

“While background investigation records do contain some information regarding mental health and financial history provided by applicants and people contacted during the background investigation, there is no evidence that health, financial, payroll, and retirement records of federal personnel or those who have applied for a federal job were impacted by this incident,” the office wrote in a press release.

A Washington Post story on Thursday said that the breaches “rank among the most potentially damaging cyber heists in U.S. government history because of the abundant detail in the files.”

“It is a very big deal from a national security perspective and from a counterintelligence perspective,” FBI Director James B. Comey said at a meeting with reporters on Thursday at the FBI headquarters. “It’s a treasure trove of information about everybody who has worked for, tried to work for, or works for the United States government.”

Two class-action lawsuits have been filed against the agency and Archuleta.

“Today’s new number is staggering,” William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, told WaPo. He added that “it is not yet clear how OPM can handle this massive increase, when they were already struggling with the initial 4.2 million. Now, not only do federal employees have to worry about their own personal information being exposed — but they must also worry about their spouse[s] and children having their information compromised.”

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