Two cyber breaches of US government systems that potentially compromised personally identifiable information of at least four million present and former federal employees is suspected to be the work of Chinese military hackers, US officials investigating the breach were reported as saying on Thursday.
The breach was discovered in April by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is responsible for all employee records, background checks and security clearances. According to a press release issued by the OPM, it has been working with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine the impact to federal personnel. It has been reported that the EINSTEIN detection tool had revealed that hackers had breached virtually every government agency. The reports said they had stopped the attack early May.
“Beginning June 8 and continuing through June 19, OPM will be sending notifications to approximately 4 million individuals whose Personally Identifiable Information was potentially compromised in this incident. The email will come from firstname.lastname@example.org and it will contain information regarding credit monitoring and identity theft protection services being provided to those Federal employees impacted by the data breach,” the OMP release stated.
The Chinese government has criticized the US reports of China’s involvement calling the reports “irresponsible and unscientific.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was quoted in the Associated Press as saying China was the victim of cyber attacks recently as well. Lei called on the US to have more trust and less suspicion.
“We know that hacker attacks are conducted anonymously, across nations, and that it is hard to track the source,” Lei said. “It’s irresponsible and unscientific to make conjectural, trumped-up allegations without deep investigation.”
The FBI was quoted in CNN as stating: “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.”
The EINSTEIN system was initially released in 2004 to monitor government networks for potential for signs of potential malicious activity. However, according to reports, it is unable to detect when hackers change web signatures, leaving it possible for hacks to go unnoticed for long periods of time.