Date
24 May 2017
An employee examines fingerprints on a computer screen at an FBI facility. More than 5.6 million people have had their fingerprints stolen by hackers, five times more than previously estimated. Photo: The Washington Post
An employee examines fingerprints on a computer screen at an FBI facility. More than 5.6 million people have had their fingerprints stolen by hackers, five times more than previously estimated. Photo: The Washington Post

Cyber attack on US govt servers more massive than first thought

Hackers have stolen much more sensitive information from US government servers than previously thought.

This included millions more fingerprint records than originally estimated, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US Office of Personnel Management said hackers stole the fingerprints of 5.6 million people, up from an estimated 1.1 million more than a month ago.

More than 20 million people lost their records due to the breach.

The agency’s new estimate is about one-quarter of all those affected lost fingerprint data, in addition to information about their health, financial history and families.

The fingerprint records were collected as part of background checks conducted since at least 2000 for some of the most sensitive government posts, including law enforcement, military, foreign service and judicial positions.

Security analysts have said the loss of fingerprint records could be a nightmare for some US officials, particularly intelligence and military officers who are used to operating covertly and try to avoid leaving any trace of their actions.

Federal experts said the ability to misuse fingerprint data is “limited as of now” but added “this probability could change over time as technology evolves”.

Many US officials have expressed less concern about the stolen data and fingerprint records being misused for identity theft and more concerned about what it might mean in terms of identifying US officials or people in sensitive government jobs.

The cyber attack on the agency was one of the largest government breaches in US history.

Several top US officials and lawmakers have alleged Chinese hackers were behind the attack, a claim Chinese officials have denied.

The rise of cyber attacks is expected to be a top issue when President Barack Obama meets with Chinese president Xi Jinping later this week in Washington.

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