OPM hack results in 21.5 million people being exposed to an unknown party

Pierluigi Paganini July 10, 2015

After revelations in June about the hack to the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), now it’s time to clarify and explain the extent of the data breach.

After the disclosure in June about the hack to the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), now was time to clarify and explain the extent of the data breach, and so OPM came clean and announced that the stolen data, includes background checks of 21.5 million people (Wow, that’s huge).

The 21.5 million people includes the present, former and possible (to be hired in the near future) government employees, and contractors, but there is more, we need to add another 4.2 million people initially announced by the OPM in its first statement.

The first announced a data breach (4.2 million personnel records) resulted in the leak of Names, Social Security numbers, places of birth and dates, current and previous addresses, and job assignments.


With the new numbers (21.5 million) in place, we are talking about background checks, which means much more detail information (scary), family members, acquaintances, health and financial records, employment history, interview notes, username and passwords, and fingerprints, all these were taken from the OPM’s network in the new revealed accident.

We all these information criminals can do pretty much everything they want, like identity theft, threats, and the worse is that no one knows who has this information, “Certainly, during the Cold War nobody would have thought of OPM as a target for identity theft or espionage,” said Michael Daniel, the National Security Council cybersecurity coordinator, “Just the nature of paper files and the way that we thought about information didn’t lend itself to that.”

Despite there is an ongoing investigation, some experts speculate the possible involvement of Chinese state-sponsored hackers, but there will be no certainly until the investigation will be complete.

“Just because we’re not doing public attribution does not mean that we are not taking steps to deal with the matter,” added Michael Daniel.

The experts speculate that this attack is one of the worst ever made, and it looks like it came straight from a Hollywood movie.

The official sources say that the attackers first gained access to the OPM’s network in May 2014, and were using a contractor’s username and password. From the OPM network they were able to move to the Department of Interior network 5 months later, in October 2014.

The cyber-criminals were active in OPM’s network at least 9 months, and they spent around 6 months in the Interior Department’s network, and only ended in April 2015 when the first breach was detected.

The Department of Homeland Security explained that it was difficult to trace the attackers on OPM’s network, comparing with the Interior Department’s network.

Katherine Archuleta, OPM’s director told that they will be providing credit and identity theft protection services to all the affected people for probably the next 3 years.

To finish up the post, I will leave some more words said by Michael Daniel, which I agree 100%

“The truth is that both in the private sector and in the public sector we have not fully made the shift to what living in a truly digital environment means for how we have to think about the kinds of information that we have, where it’s stored, how it’s stored, how we’re protecting it, and how we need to think of that in a much more integrated fashion,”

About the Author Elsio Pinto

Elsio Pinto (@high54security) is at the moment the Lead Mcafee Security Engineer at Swiss Re, but he also as knowledge in the areas of malware research, forensics, ethical hacking. He had previous experiences in major institutions being the European Parliament one of them. He is a security enthusiast and tries his best to pass his knowledge. He also owns his own blog http://high54security.blogspot.com/

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – OPM, hacking)

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