Integrated Security Services, Inc., New York

OPM Background Check Database Breach Affects Millions

13 Aug

U.S. Department of Agriculture/fickr U.S. Department of Agriculture/flickr

A recent government breach has compromised sensitive information belonging to over twenty million Americans, prompting widespread anxiety over data security in the digital age.

NBC News reports that over twenty million Americans have been affected by a data breach in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) background investigation database. The hack resulted in the theft of social security numbers, fingerprint records, health and criminal records, and family member information.

As a result, anyone who applied for a background check with the Federal Government since 2000 has potentially had their personal information compromised.

1 in 15 Americans Impacted by Breach

The hack has been labeled an “enormous breach” by FBI Director James Comey, whose own records, as well as those of his family, fell victim to the hack.

The detection of a smaller hack in April, in which 4.2 million people had data stolen, led to a protracted three-month investigation that resulted in the discovery of a much larger attack that had gone unnoticed, affecting 21.5 million Americans.

A number of the victims were affected by both security lapses, thus bringing the total number of people who had their information stolen in the dual hackings to 22.1 million — approximately one of every 15 Americans. It is believed that the same person or group is responsible for both breaches, and authorities say that the suspects most likely operated in China.

The perpetrators gained access to the system in May or June 2014 using a government contractor’s stolen name and password, meaning they were in the system for nearly a year before their presence was detected.

Head of the OPM Resigns

OPM head Katherine Archuleta has resigned in the aftermath of the breach. Lawmakers had sought her termination since the extent of the hack first became clear, citing missed signs of vulnerability in the time leading up to the attacks. According to NPR News, Beth Cobert, former director of McKinsey & Company, will take over as acting director.

As of now, it isn’t apparent that the stolen information has been misused, but the OPM has still responded to the crisis by suspending all use of the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing system (e-QIP). As a result, anyone currently undergoing a background check for secret clearances is filling out an old-fashioned paper form.

Most investigations of the hacks have centered on what the infiltrators retrieved from the system. Joel Brenner, a former inspector general for the NSA, pointed out to Dina Temple-Raston at NPR that “nobody seems to be paying any attention to what they might have left behind… Once you are in system you can not only steal things from it, but you can change what is inside of it.”

This is especially significant given the amount of time the hackers had to freely access the database.

To compensate those affected by the embarrassing compromise, the OPM has offered free, full-service identity restoration support and victim recovery assistance. They will also provide identity theft insurance and continuous credit monitoring for at least three years.

Protect Yourself with Integrated Security Services

However, some have questioned whether what the OPM is offering is too little — and almost everyone agrees it’s too late. With more and more data stored in digital systems, breaches and hackings are becoming all too commonplace. And if even the government is falling victim, how can the rest of us protect ourselves?

Start with a call to Integrated Security Services. Integrated provides you with network and data protection from viruses, distributed-denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), cyber stalking, and identity theft. Your case will be handled personally by a specialized law enforcement professional, who will implement practices recommended by the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS), a data security wing of the FBI.

With so much of our lives now stored on the web, it’s imperative that you have the right people protecting your data. At Integrated, you’ll find just who you’re looking for.