Just last week, we learned about a major hack by Chinese cybercriminals that hit every single federal employee, including some former employees. It doesn't get much worse than that, does it? It turns out it does.
Yesterday, government officials announced that even more federal and military security clearance documents and background check information were stolen from the Office of Personnel Management in a separate hack, most likely from the same group or groups of hackers. The form that includes the extremely sensitive information is referred to as the Standard Form 86.
Standard Form 86 is over 100 pages long and asks applicants to divulge private information like their Social Security number, the SSN of any roommates or cohabitants, relatives that live both here and abroad and any history of mental illness or drug use. As of October 2014, there have been over 4 million citizens questioned for security clearances.
The mass hack of this form practically gives the Chinese a complete list of every American with a security clearance. And surprisingly, United States officials have been slow to officially link the Chinese government to this dangerous hack, and there is a reason why.
In today's digital age, government hacking is the "norm," so to speak. This means that to protect our national security we often hack into foreign government databases just like the Chinese did with the massive OPM hacking. It is understood that other governments also participate this type of hacking and if we blow the lid off of this, it could have huge homeland security ramifications.
Dina Temple-Raston of NPR's national security team talked more about why the U.S. hasn't officially named the Chinese as being the hacking.
"Well, part of the reason is because the U.S. does this kind of hacking and espionage as well, and it's understood that this sort of thing goes on. One official told me that so far, the calculation has been that the trouble that they would cause in naming China specifically seems to outweigh the benefits of calling them out for stealing the information."
If you are one of the estimated 14 million current or former government employees affected, you will get an email or snail-mail letter with instructions on how to proceed. The letter will give a 1-800 number to contact with your questions and concerns.
As always, I will keep you updated with any new information regarding this cyberhack. Many U.S. citizens would be anxious if their own government had this type of personal information and now the Chinese government does. Try to take a deep breath and not panic, if you get a letter or email contact the number listed and follow the directions carefully. This will be resolved and I'll be here every step of the way to make sure you don't have a heart attack!