Last week when the Obama administration announced the massive hack into the government employee database, we knew it was going to be bad. Millions of government employees had their security clearances, Social Security information, addresses and tons of other private information stolen.
New details have now come to light that make it clear this hack was a bigger deal than we originally thought. Now, 14 million people are believed to have had their information stolen by the suspected Chinese hackers. Initially the government reported that only 4 million people were affected, but that number was soon increased more than three-fold.
While there are only about 4.2 million government employees currently, this database breach apparently included former government employees dating back to the 1980s. Other reports indicate that contractors' information was compromised, as well. So, even if you haven't worked for the government in decades, your information is still at risk.
The hack was discovered this April as a new security program was being tested to better protect government databases. While the prototype was being used, it picked up on malicious activity that was compromising the security of its information technology systems. And boy, did it really pick up on something nasty!
We don't know if the hacking was carried out by Chinese government officials or civilians. There hasn't been any further indication of this since the Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said he knew it was, "the Chinese." Reid is one of only a handful of people who is debriefed on the most secretive intelligence information directly from the White House.
The craziest part of this massive hack is that the hackers were believed to be roaming around in government databases for over a year before they were detected. This is a prime example on how easy it is for anyone to steal your information. All hackers need is the right set of tools and the online world is their oyster. Scary!
Hackers located the Office of Personnel Management's systems and stole information from a number of forms. Those included not only the information from government employees, but that of their family members and loved ones. The forms stolen by hackers asked employees to record family, friends and even old roommates, leaving millions of people wondering if their information has been compromised.
A major union of Federal employees has been following developments closely. A spokesperson for the union says the hackers stole military records and veterans' status information, address, birth date, job and pay history, health insurance, life insurance, and pension information; and age, gender and race data. The union called the breach "an abysmal failure on the part of the agency to guard data that has been entrusted to it by the federal workforce."
The Office of Personnel Management is responsible for carrying out background checks of government employees who are seeking certain levels of security clearance. In short, the information of the most important and protected government officials is now out there for hackers to do with as they please.
United States government officials have said their first concern is protecting the information of government employees stationed overseas in China and other communist countries. These people, and their loved ones, living in communist countries are at risk of being singled out for blackmail or the target of tricky phishing attacks.
If you are someone who the government deems "at risk," you will receive an email sometime within the next two weeks with instructions on how to proceed. Let me know if you are one of the 14 million affected by this massive government breach by commenting below!