Chinese hackers have reportedly broke into systems belonging a United States government agency that withholds data of federal personnel, according to a paper published in The New York Times.
That cyber attack occurred at the Office of Personnel Management and Senior American officials presume that the Chinese hackers successfully gained access to a number of agency databases in March, before federal authorities recognized the threat and blocked the attacks from their network.
The hackers appeared to be targeting the files on tens of thousands of employees who have applied for top-secret security clearances, the New York Times reports.
“The intrusion at the Office of Personnel Management was particularly disturbing because it oversees a system called e-QIP, in which federal employees applying for security clearances enter their most personal information, including financial data. Federal employees who have had security clearances for some time are often required to update their personal information through the website,” the newspaper states.
The Department of Homeland security has not issued any information on how the attack was executed and how the Chinese attackers were able to infiltrate the US Office of Personnel Management networks.
Of the infiltrated databases, hackers gained access to a trove of personnel data from e-Qip. Such records contain finical data, social security numbers, foreign contacts, previous job titles, personal data such as past encounters, and a number of other highly sensitive pieces of information.
A senior Department of Homeland security official told the newspaper that the attack had infact occurred but “at this time,” the personnel agency nor Homeland Security had “identified any loss of personally identifiable information.” The official did state that an emergency response team has been assigned to the case “to assess and mitigate any risks identified.”
Officials traced the threat back to China, but are unclear if the Chinese government has any affiliation with the cyber attack. American officials say the attack is notable as hackers try to breach United States Government servers everyday and rarely, if ever, succeed.
The United Stats government recently indicted five Chinese Military officials for alleged cyberespionage operations against a number of American companies and stealing sensitive files passing it back to Chinese-owned companies.