5.6 million fingerprint’s were stolen by hackers The Office of Personnel Management reported Wednesday.
The Wall Street Journal Reports:
WASHINGTON—The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday said hackers stole much more sensitive information from its servers than originally believed, disclosing millions more fingerprint records were stolen than previously estimated.
The office said hackers were able to steal the fingerprints of 5.6 million people, up from the 1.1 million estimate it offered more than a month ago. More than 20 million people lost their records as part of the breach, and OPM’s new estimate means that roughly one-quarter of all those affected lost fingerprint data, in addition to information about their health, financial history and families.
The fingerprint records were collected as part of background checks conducted since at least 2000 for some of the most sensitive government posts, including law enforcement, military, foreign service and judicial positions.
Security analysts have said the loss of fingerprint records could be a nightmare for some U.S. officials, particularly intelligence and military officers who are used to operating covertly and try to avoid leaving any trace of their actions.
An OPM spokesman said Wednesday that “federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited” but added that “this probability could change over time as technology evolves.”
So far, many U.S. officials have expressed less concern about the stolen data and fingerprint records being misused for identity theft and more concerned about what it might mean in terms of identifying U.S. officials or people in sensitive government jobs.
The cyberattack at OPM was one of the largest government breaches in U.S. history, and several top U.S. officials and lawmakers have alleged Chinese hackers were behind the attack. Chinese officials have denied this, but the rise of cyberattacks is expected to be a top issue when President Barack Obama meets with Chinese president Xi Jinping later this week in Washington.
The U.S. government has offered limited identity-theft protection to the more than 21.5 million people whose records were stolen as part of the OPM breach.
The theft and the government’s uneven response sparked criticism from Republicans and Democrats that more should have been done to protect the records. The outcry became so severe—particularly as word spread that the breach was much worse than expected—that OPM’s director, Katherine Archuleta, resigned in July.
The agency is now led by acting director Beth Cobert.