If you are much like my mother, you still don’t trust typing in your Social Security number online when necessary. But one place U.S. citizens should be able to trust with the information is the government, which issued it in the first place. After a large breach of government computer systems, the Obama administration released information on Thursday stating 21.5 million people were affected.
The government hack was originally thought to be much smaller, but further investigation shows that the hackers stole tons of personal information from both government officials and everyday citizens. This information includes but is not limited to finger prints and Social Security numbers.
The Office of Personnel Management announced that every person who was given a government background check in the last 15 years was more than likely affected. The “sensitive information” stolen moved much past Social Security numbers, hackers retrieved health and financial history as well as addresses from 19.7 million people who received the background checks and another 1.8 million spouses and friends.
The government believes the hack originated in China, but is not able to specify where in China or who. However, this colossal hack is tied to a previous invasion last month that left 4.2 million government officials exposed and also originating in China.
The White House cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel, stated what many are feeling today.
“We have to raise our level of cybersecurity in both the private sector and the public sector,” said Daniel.
This latest breach is the largest seen and shows just how vulnerable federal agencies are to those with superior technological knowledge. The breaches also send another red flag to the government that it is time to implement stronger cybersecurity – a talk often heard, but with little action to support it.
However, it does seem as though many in Congress are ready for a change as they have asked for the director of the Office of Personnel Management, Katherine Archuleta, to be dismissed. Archuleta decided not to resign and instead work harder to prevent these unsettling breaches.
“There is a treasure trove of information about everybody who has worked for, tried to work for or works for the United States government,” said F.B.I director James B. Comey Jr. in a briefing with The New York Times. “Just imagine you are an intelligence service and you had that data, how it would be useful to you.”
Update: OPM Directory Katherine Archuleta has resigned as a result of the breach. She had stood up to critics who were calling for her head, but submitted her letter of resignation this morning, according to a source close to the National Journal.