The disaster de jour for the government is the theft of millions of files detailing the personal information of anyone who has applied for a security clearance through the U.S. government. This information, stolen from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has been going on for over a year and even the government doesn’t know how many people it has affected. The official claim of 4 million people is bad enough, but it may affect as many as 14 million people.
The reason for the panic is the documents that the hackers stole. Standard Form 86 is the application to get a security clearance and it contains highly detailed and personal information about the applicant. Name, social security number, former and current addresses and employers are included, but the 127-page form also gathers information about spouse and family, legal difficulties, investments, travel and many other areas.
If this information ended up in the hands of criminals it would be bad enough, but the current theory is that Chinese-sponsored hackers stole the information. Having a potentially antagonistic government in possession of personal records for everyone who has a security clearance is a potential disaster.
“Hackers linked to China have gained access to the sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances,” U.S. officials were quoted by Glenn Reynolds in USA Today.
The details behind the lack of security at OPM is a cautionary tale about how not to secure computers and cyber-information, and the White House has already taken steps to seal the breach and prevent another intrusion into government computers. However, this is the same procedure that the federal government has taken each time hackers have broken into government computer systems.
“Recent events underscore the need to accelerate the administration’s cyber strategy and confront aggressive, persistent malicious actors that continue to target our nation’s cyber infrastructure,” Office of Management and Budget officials wrote in a statement.
The White House is also under pressure to respond to state sponsored cyber-attacks. Politicians from both sides of the aisle are pressing the administration to take a firmer stand against China in the wake of the attack.
“It is long past time for the international community to rally together and make crystal clear to the Chinese government that if they want to be treated as a leading nation on the global stage, then they need to start acting like it,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said about the attack.
What is clear is that this country is playing catch up when it comes to cyber-attacks and, in addition to punishing the countries who are behind them, we need to upgrade our computer security systems to prevent these attacks from continuing.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.