The personal data of some 4 million current and former U.S. federal employees was illegally accessed by hackers in China, government officials said. Photo by hxdyl/Shutterstock
WASHINGTON, June 4 (UPI) -- The personal data of an estimated 4 million current and former federal employees was compromised in a computer breach linked to Chinese hackers, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management -- which handles government security clearances and federal employee records -- said it became aware of the data breach in April. Personally identifiable information, including social security numbers, was potentially illegally accessed.
The department said it is working with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and the FBI to determine just how much of an affect this breach will have on the personnel.
A federal official told Politico that hackers in China were behind the breach, though it's unclear if it is state-sponsored.
"China is not a monolith," the official said. "There are many different things that can be Chinese. You may be seeing something where we're not going to be pointing the finger [in public], because we don't have an indictment to lay down."
OPM said it is offering affected current and former employees free credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and recovery services. The department said it plans to send emails or letters to those affected in the coming weeks.
"Protecting our federal employee data from malicious cyberincidents is of the highest priority at OPM," Katherine Archuleta, the agency's director, said. "We take very seriously our responsibility to secure the information stored in our systems, and in coordination with our agency partners, our experienced team is constantly identifying opportunities to further protect the data with which we are entrusted."