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Attacks/Breaches

7/9/2015
04:05 PM
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OPM: Personal Info On 21.5 Million People Exposed In Hack

The Office of Personnel Management today confirmed the final body count of victims affected by its massive data breach, which also exposed some 1.1 million fingerprints stored in the background-check database.

The body count is in: some 21.5 million individuals had their social security numbers, residency and employment history, family, health, and financial history exposed in the massive data breach of the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) background-check investigation database.

Of the 19.7 million individuals who had applied for the background checks, 1.1 million had their fingerprint scans exposed as well. The remaining 1.8 million people affected by the breach were spouses or other members of the applicants' households, OPM said today.

"Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators and fingerprints. Usernames and passwords that background investigation applicants used to fill out their background investigation forms were also stolen," OPM said today in an announcement describing the findings from its forensics investigation of the breach.

The agency says so far there's no indication that the data has been abused or distributed anywhere. Security experts have pointed the finger at China, but OPM has not officially called out the source of the attack. 

Who's affected? Anyone who had a background-check via OPM as far back as 2000. "If an individual underwent a background investigation prior to 2000, that individual still may be impacted, but it is less likely," OPM said.

The background-check system breach is related to a previous attack on OPM discovered in April that exposed personnel data on 4.2 million current and former federal employees. OPM has been under the microscope for its security failings in the wake of the attacks.

Read OPM's release here for more details on the latest breach information.

 

 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio
 

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Jon M. Kelley
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Jon M. Kelley,
User Rank: Moderator
7/24/2015 | 9:22:42 PM
Re: Worriesome and astonishing: OPM can't count
Per OPM press release 19.7 milloin security applications were copied, but those applicants only had 1.8 million dependents. Even if OPM is only counting dependents that were required to list SSNs (e.g. spouses, ex-spouses, cohabitants, et cetera), that means that significantly less than 9% of the applicants were EVER married!  Since the clearance is refreshed every ~5 years, and ex's are never dropped from the form it becomes clear that people with clearances don't breed.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
7/17/2015 | 9:08:06 AM
Re: Attacker
Absolutely, @xmarksthespot. This is an intelligence nightmare with so many potential ramifications. 
xmarksthespot
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50%
xmarksthespot,
User Rank: Strategist
7/17/2015 | 12:11:07 AM
Re: Attacker
I was thinking, another way this information can be used: easier infiltration.  Simply verifying the identification of a person is a primary purpose of the background check.  They want to be certain that person is who they say they are.   If someone was to reapply for a security clearance and they provide information about their history that is even slightly different, big red flags go up.   This database, if acquired by another country, can be used to develop an exact duplicate of a person's assumed legitimate history to submit during application for a national security position, and they could build it out from there.

 
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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50%
Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
7/14/2015 | 4:58:03 PM
Re: Attacker
Well, security researchers and others are pointing at China. This is pure intel hacking, and devastating in its scope and exposure. 
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
7/14/2015 | 3:48:59 PM
Re: There should be a solution.
Better make storage online secure. All we need to focus on confidentiality, integrity and availability and apply that to different layers. Why would anybody be able to acce4ss this much information at any given time? There is no real reason.
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
7/14/2015 | 3:46:37 PM
Re: Lost war
I would say lost. Why wouldn't I? this amount of information with this sensitivity should have not been compromised. Not from US. 
Dr.T
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50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
7/14/2015 | 3:44:26 PM
Re: Lost war
Americans lost. US Government may still be getting what they need to get, we just do not hear it, and obviously they are not protecting the data well enough.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
7/14/2015 | 3:42:15 PM
Lawsuits
Should we expect any lawsuit against government anytime soon? If this was happening to a private company the government will be all over it. Very surprising that this much sensitive information could be compromised at a given time.
StepAheadPR
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StepAheadPR,
User Rank: Strategist
7/14/2015 | 3:06:33 PM
Worriesome and astonishing

The extent of the records stolen is astonishing and worrisome. Over 21 million people exposed, or around 7-8% of the U.S. population, have had personally identifiable information compromised in the attacks.

Although usernames and passwords can be changed, and compromised cards replaced, victims of a breach need to understand that every bit of information exposed is important. Fraudsters are learning that information coupled from various breaches can create more comprehensive 'identity bundles' which sell for a higher value to hackers.

With more complete information, more fraud can take place. As an example, if I'm a hacker and gain access to geographical data on John Smith from breach one, and bank account information from breach two, I can fill out a loan application or apply for a new credit card as John regularly would. 

Fortunately, user behavior analytics can provide victims of this and other breaches with an extra layer of protection even after the hack has occurred. Online fraud detection solutions can stop fraudsters in their tracks by identifying suspicious activity, in a completely passive and unintrusive way. This is accomplished by understanding how a legitimate user truly behaves in contrast to a potential fraudster with legitimate information.

Without even interrupting a user's experience, fraud can be predicted and prevented from occurring.

HAnatomi
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HAnatomi,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/11/2015 | 4:35:09 AM
There should be a solution.
Hopefully someone will soon come up with a solution that enables us to stores the biometric data offline and use them online but does not force us to carry around the device that stores the sensitive data.
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