After Hacking, Government Workers Warned of Potential Fraud

An immense hack of millions of government personnel files is being treated as the work of foreign spies who could use the information to fake their way into more-secure computers and plunder U.S. secrets.

Federal employees were told in a video Friday to change all their passwords, put fraud alerts on their credit reports and watch for attempts by foreign intelligence services to exploit them. That message came from Dan Payne, a senior counterintelligence official for the Director of National Intelligence.

"Some of you may think that you are not of interest because you don't have access to classified information," he said. "You are mistaken."

Federal officials said Friday the cyberattack appeared to have originated in China, but they didn't point fingers directly at the Chinese government. The Chinese said any such accusation would be "irresponsible and unscientific."

"We know that the attack occurred from somewhere in China, but we don't know whether it was an individual or a group or a nation-state attack," said Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat and leading voice in Congress on cybersecurity. He added, though that it had "all the hallmarks of a nation-state attack."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he couldn't divulge much while the case was under investigation. Still, he noted that investigators "are aware of the threat that is emanating from China."

One U.S. official said the breach of data involving more than 4 million past and present federal workers was being investigated as a national security matter. That suggests authorities believe a nation was behind it rather than a more loosely organized gang of cybercriminals. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The breach was an embarrassing showing for the U.S. government's vaunted computer-defense system for civilian agencies -- dubbed "Einstein" -- which is costing...

Comments are closed.