Five times more American fingerprint sets were stolen by Chinese hackers than was previously reported. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has shocked the nation by announcing that more fingerprints were in the hands of Chinese espionage experts than had previously been estimated.
In a statement on Wednesday, OPM spokesperson Samuel Schumach said that up to 5.6 million U.S. public service workers’ fingerprints had been stolen in the massive breach of government employee files. Initially, the figure had been put at 1.1 million. Overall, 21.5 American citizens were affected by the hack.
Along with the fingerprints, OPM announced that Social Security Numbers and other sensitive data such as criminal records, financial history, sexual behavior and drug use, were collected by the hackers. Schumach said the discovery had been made after “analyzing impacted data to verify its quality and completeness.” The breaches have been traced to Chinese espionage activities.
It is unclear how the fingerprint data can be used to compromise America’s position. Schumach said, “Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited. However, this probability could change over time as technology evolves. “
The OPM announced that an interagency group comprising of representatives from the FBI, Homeland Security Department, DoD and the intelligence community, had been set up to analyze security breaches possible with the finger prints. OPM said the group would also figure out ways of remedying the situation should attacks be found possible.
Schumach said, “If, in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach.”
Five months after the massive breach of U.S. public service and state officials data, the federal government recently inked a $133 million contract that would see hack victims provided with credit monitoring for three years. The program would help authorities identify theft prevention strategies.
The OPM said it would work closely with the DoD to provide mailing notifications to the impacted individuals. The notifications, Schumach said, would continue on a rolling basis.
The massive breach by Chinese espionage experts was conducted remotely and rendered compromised both private, individual and confidential state information. Though the U.S. government has sealed the OPM data from consequent breaches, little is known about how the Chinese will use or misuse the stolen data.