In another disturbing allegation of Chinese-sponsored cyber-spying, The New York Times is reporting that Chinese hackers have infiltrated an important U.S. Government database.
The Times’ report details a cyber-security breach that occurred in March of this year, in which Chinese hackers allegedly stole personal information on thousands of U.S government employees from the Office of Personnel Management. This is the agency that stores personal data about all federal employees.
Among its activities, the Office of Personnel Management conducts background checks on anyone working with the federal government. The agency also stores information about employee hiring, wages, pensions, and — critically –security clearances.
Acquiring the names of United States employees cleared for high-security (and above) positions is a major haul in the world of international espionage, and potentially seriously compromises American intelligence and security efforts.
This attack by Chinese hackers comes at an awkward time for the U.S., with Secretary of State John Kerry in Bejing for the annual Sino-U.S. summit.
Kerry has not commented on the Office of Personnel Management breach.
The current cyber-attack allegations follow the indictment in May of five Chinese military hackers for breaking into the networks of several major U.S. corporations, including Westinghouse and U.S. Steel. These Chinese hackers targeted six American victims in the U.S. nuclear power, metals and solar products industries from 2006 to 2014, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
The Office of Personnel Management breach was revealed the same week the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association announced it was seeking (as dubbed by a Democrat Congressman) a ‘war council’ with government on the issue of cyber-security regarding the nation’s financial services industry, including the physical protection of the nation’s electric grid.