|The recent data hack that exposed the personal information of some 4 million current and former federal employees may have been a mechanism to prepare for future cyber attacks by China against the U.S., cyber security experts say.
According to a June 5 CNN report, law enforcement officials believe the hack was carried out by the same group of Chinese hackers responsible for the Anthem Insurance data breach, which released the personal information of tens of millions of customers earlier this year.
The federal government itself is no stranger to cyber attacks, seeing a stunning 680% rise in cyber security breaches over the last six years alone. However, U.S. officials believe this hack, revealed June 4, is the largest breach to affect the government’s computer servers and networks.
“The extent of personal data stolen makes this attack an order of magnitude greater than any we have seen of its kind in the past,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who was briefed on the attack, told CNN.
The Chinese government has called statements linking itself with the data breach “irresponsible,” but neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.
This hack could allow for future insider attacks that are impossible to predict and difficult to detect. Additionally, the hack exposed which employees have security clearances, which could allow the Chinese to blackmail and expose U.S. government workers across the globe.
Months before this hack, the U.S. government was actually warned of its systems’ vulnerabilities, the New York Times reported on June 5.
The report, issued in November by the Office of Personnel Management, described the federal government’s networks as a Chinese hacker’s dream. The Office of Personnel Management even suggested temporarily shutting down federal servers, as these vulnerabilities “could potentially have national security implications.”
“The mystery here is not how they got cleaned out by the Chinese,” a senior former government official said. “The mystery is what took the Chinese so long.”
In the days following discovery of the hack, the Office of Personnel Management has advised federal employees whose data was exposed to keep a close eye on their financial statements and to consider getting a new credit report.