OPM Data Breach Appears State-Sponsored, Say Intelligence Committee Members

The online data theft that hit government computers earlier this month appears to have been state-sponsored, according to U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee members, though no nation was officially named.

Reuters reported Wednesday (June 10) that the massive breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which was announced by the Obama administration last Thursday, may have compromised data tied to as many as 4 million current or former federal employees.

During a conference call with reporters, Reuters said that Sen. Angus King signaled that the breach was in fact state-sponsored and not criminal in nature. The committee, he said, had a classified briefing on the breach on June 9. King’s projection that the attack was state-sponsored received some backing by Sen. Mark Warner, who serves on the Intelligence Committee as well. The two committee members held the call in order to “push lawmakers” to OK the OPM’s request for $32 million in funding, earmarked largely for technology upgrades.

The call for additional funding comes at a time when both major U.S. political parties are in the middle of a debate on mandatory spending limits and other budget fights. Those budget caps, according to some politicians, should not extend to cybersecurity programs. At the moment, Republican leaders have attached a cybersecurity bill, which has already been voted upon and approved by the U.S. House of Representatives as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which President Barack Obama has threatened to veto, said Reuters in its Wednesday report.

Though the officials did not explicitly name China as being party to the hack, Reuters reported that even accusations by U.S. government individuals or groups “could further strain ties” between the two countries, and that tensions remain elevated over Chinese actions in support of territorial claims related to the South China Sea.

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