When massive data breaches occur — such as the one that hit the U.S. federal computer networks last week (June 5) — the logistical cleanup that comes as part of the breach aftermath often reveals just how much personal data was actually compromised.
In the case of the federal employee hack last week, it was realized that the data of 4 million public servants (both former and current) had been breached. The breach is believed to have originated with Chinese hackers and is currently under investigation by the FBI, which has said it will “hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”
But now, a June 7 report from Reuters suggests that the suspected hackers were able to grab much more than personal data. The breach impact is feared to have leaked into “industrial secrets and weapons plans from government and private computers.” China has denied involvement, but the U.S. has said that the breach has been linked to hackers in China — but have not released any information that indicates the Chinese government is connected.
The breach, which hacked into the computers at the Office of Personnel Management, is the second of its kind in a year’s time. The first breach, Reuters reported, was of the Anthem health insurer breach that left the record of 78.8 million customers vulnerable. The suspected hackers in that case were also Chinese hackers. That breach even managed to put the data of 8.8 million non-customers at risk.
“It’s a different form of Cold War at this point,” Rob Eggebrecht, CEO of Denver-based InteliSecure, a private cybersecurity firm, told Reuters. “We’ve seen a huge uptick in opportunistic exfiltration of high-value data.”
Reuters also reported that U.S. government officials say the high-tech, increasingly sophisticated hacking tools the suspected Chinese hackers are said to be using enable them to create major databases to store the stolen data. Those databases, the officials suggested, could be “used for traditional espionage goals, such as recruiting spies, or gaining access to secure data on other networks.”
The most recent breach gave those hackers access to birth dates, Social Security numbers, address history and a number of security clearances. Once gathered, that data can help hackers learn a lot more about how to hack into even more information — which poses potential security threats for the U.S. government as it relates to highly sensitive data.
“They can dig down into that data and learn more about the individuals, what their hobbies are, what their vices are, what skeletons they have in their closet,” Babak Pasdar, CEO of cybersecurity firm Bat Blue Network, told Reuters.
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