Hackers had access to US security clearance data for a year

The government still hasn't said how much data it fears was stolen



Hackers who breached a database containing highly personal information on government employees with security clearances had access to the system for about a year before being discovered, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management dates back to June or July last year and was only discovered earlier this month.

The database in question contains applications for security clearances, which ask for information on all aspects of a person's life including social security numbers, passport numbers, names of former neighbors, and information on family members. It also asks about, over the past seven years, any contact with foreign nationals and problems with drug or alcohol abuse, debts or bankruptcy, imprisonment and run-ins with law enforcement.

The OPM hasn't said how much data it believes was stolen, but the longer intruders have to explore a network, the more data they can access. With the year they had, there are fears the theft could be substantial.

It is the second major breach uncovered and made public at the government department in recent weeks. The first, which came to light in early June, involved OPM's database on federal employees and is thought to have resulted in the theft of data on as many as 4 million workers.

While a perpetrator hasn't been named, U.S. officials, speaking under the cloak of anonymity, have said they suspect the Chinese government of playing a role.

The Chinese government has denied the accusations.

The OPM essentially serves as the government's human resources department and handles functions like hiring and retaining staff and running background checks. The office has information that could be used to identify people, including financial data and details about employees' families. The breach also raised concerns that information on intelligence workers was exposed.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Office of Personnel Managementsecuritygovernment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?