Chinese Hackers Steal Data on US Security Clearances, After Failing Last Year

June 5, 2015 Updated: June 6, 2015

Hackers allegedly from China breached a U.S. federal network containing information on close to four million current and former government employees. The attack marks the second time Chinese hackers have targeted information on U.S. security clearances, showing that after failing once they merely tried again.

The hackers targeted the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which holds records on federal employees and handles their security clearances. In a June 4 announcement, it said the office has partnered with the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team to “determine the impact to Federal personnel.”

OPM first detected the attack in April while they were implementing new tools for cybersecurity. It announced that after detecting the presence of the hackers, which targeted the old systems, they “immediately implemented additional security measures to protect the sensitive information it manages.”

The breach relates to a similar cyberattack against OPM in March 2014. The breach, which was also traced to China, targeted a computer network with information on all government employees, and the hackers allegedly tried and failed to access a network with information on people who applied for security clearances.

The recent attack shows that Chinese hackers ignored bad press after they were caught in March 2014, and continued their attacks on OPM even after being exposed.

While the Chinese Communist Party has already begun denying its involvement in the recent breach, the FBI announced in a statement they “will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”

The Chinese regime would have clear interest in information about federal security clearances. It could potentially give them information on U.S. agents, provide them with information on federal employees they could use to target and compromise individuals, and it could give them a road-map on which characteristics are needed to get security clearances for its own spies.

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