More than 20 million people had their personal information stolen when Office of Personnel Management (OPM) servers were breached by Chinese hackers last year, sources close to the agency are reporting.
In a statement, OPM said hackers stole the Social Security numbers of 21.5 million people, including 19.7 million individuals who applied for a background investigation.
In any case, the figure is much higher than OPM’s original estimate of 4 million and amounts to roughly 7% of the US population.
OPM reports that the types of compromised information may also include Social Security numbers; residency and educational history; employment history; information about immediate family and personal and business acquaintances; and health, criminal, and financial history that would have been part of a background investigation.
ABC notes that “US intelligence and law enforcement officials are particularly concerned over the theft of forms known as SF-86s that current and prospective federal workers, including certain military personnel, and even contractors submit for security clearances.”
The 120-page questionnaire is an exhaustive examination of an applicant’s personal history, including their financial records (including gambling addictions and any outstanding debt), drug use, alcoholism, arrests, psychological and emotional health, foreign travel, foreign contacts, and an extensive list of all relatives.
Experts fear the stolen information could be used by the Chinese government to blackmail, exploit, or recruit US intelligence officers, compromising the success and safety of agents operating at home and abroad.
“I’m sure the adversary has my SF-86 now,” FBI Director James Comey said to a Senate panel earlier this week. “My SF-86 lists every place I’ve ever lived since I was 18. Every foreign travel I’ve ever taken. All of my family, their addresses.”