Officials investigating the hacking of US Office of Personnel Management databases have concluded that the data stolen affects 21.5 million people. All victims’ Social Security numbers were stolen, and the fingerprint data of 1.1 million victims was also taken.
It’s a security breach that mostly affects government workers, with 19.7 million affected individuals having had their data collected as part of a background check, which the OPM is charge with administrating. But 1.8 million victims were friends and relatives of the applicants screened, who also would have been contacted during the background check process. The security breach follows closely on the heels of another attack in April of this year, and has potentially involved the loss of data relating to individuals’ residency, business acquaintances, criminal history, employment background, and more.
The breach provides some validation to the concerns some have expressed about government collection of biometric data such as the fingerprint records that were stolen. While such criticisms have been relatively quiet in the US as such initiatives begin to take shape in the country, debate has been rather more lively in countries like Australia, where past large-scale security breaches have shaken public trust. In the case of the OPM, legislators are mostly pushing to have such data collection moved to a different agency at this point.
July 10, 2015 – by Alex Perala