The identity and personal data of 4 million FBI employees have been compromised by a cyberattack on the US government’s Office of Personnel Management, allegedly carried out by Chinese hackers.
Investigators told the Wall Street Journal the hack was detected in April, but is believed to be separate from one detected last year. The press reported last year that Chinese hackers attacked US government servers in March 2014 in an attempt to steal information on thousands of federal employees with top-secret clearance. Investigators suspect hackers based in China are behind the recent attack.
“The FBI is working with our interagency partners to investigate this matter,” the FBI said in a statement. “We take all potential threats to public and private sector systems seriously, and will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”
Although the damage is still uncertain, officials say stolen information can be used for identity theft or fraud. Homeland Security said it found out at the beginning of May that the records had been taken. It could be one of the biggest breaches of government computers.
FBI has estimated 4.2 million former and current federal employees are in the hacked database, including 1.5 million serving as uniformed military personnel.
China has denied any involvement in the breach, saying that it is itself a target of hacking attacks from overseas. Last week, the Chinese government announced a five-year cybersecurity program as part of a plan against cyber confrontation with the United States, asÂ hotforsecurity.comÂ has reported.
Last month, the US Department of Justice indicted five Chinese military hackers for computer hacking, economic espionage and other offenses directed at six victims in the U.S. nuclear power, metals and solar products industries.Â They conspired to hack into American entities, maintain unauthorized access to their computers and steal information that would be useful to competitors in China, including state-owned enterprises. They stole trade secrets that would have been particularly beneficial to Chinese companies at the time they were stolen and also stole sensitive, internal communications that would provide a competitor, or an adversary in litigation, with insight into the strategy and vulnerabilities of the American entities.