Second Hack of Government Data May Have Compromised Security Clearance Information

Michelangelus/Shutterstock.com

A second breach of the Office of Personnel Management by hackers believed to be associated with China exposed sensitive security clearance information of intelligence and military personnel, officials confirmed Friday, potentially creating an intelligence disaster for U.S. spies stationed abroad.

"During the investigation into the cyber intrusion of OPM that compromised personnel records of current and former Federal employees announced last week, OPM along with its interagency partners became aware of the possibility of a separate intrusion affecting a different set of OPM systems and data," a senior administration official said in a statement.

Officials investigating the OPM hack announced last week discovered the second breach on Monday, the official said.

"On June 8, as the investigation proceeded, the incident response team shared with relevant agencies that there was a high degree of confidence that OPM systems containing information related to the background investigations of current, former, and prospective Federal government employees, and those for whom a federal background investigation was conducted, may have been exfiltrated," the official said. "Since the investigation is ongoing, we are in the process of assessing the scope of the information that has been compromised, but we expect OPM will conduct additional notifications as necessary."

Multiple reports said that hackers retrieved files holding Standard Form 86, which requires applicants to provide a comprehensive and personal portrait of their lives, including information about emotional disorders, drug and alcohol problems and a listing of relatives and contacts.

On Friday afternoon the White House announced that National Security Adviser Susan Rice sat down for a meeting with Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission. Among the topics discussed were "narrowing areas of disagreement, including …. cyber issues."

The White House refused to provide additional information about Rice's meeting when asked.

OPM announced last week that some four million current and former federal employees had personal data exposed during a breach that began last year but wasn't detected until April. But it was previously thought that sensitive data of intelligence personnel would not have been as widely affected, as those agencies typically do not have their records maintained at OPM.

Joel Brenner, a former senior counterintelligence official, told the Washington Post the second intrusion was "potentially devastating from a counterintelligence point of view."

"These forums contain decades of personal information about people with clearances," Brenner added, "which makes them easier to recruit for foreign espionage on behalf of a foreign country."

(Image via Michelangelus/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.