While the nation was distracted by Pope Francis’ speech at the White House and subsequent parade today, the Office of Personnel Management announced that the Chinese hack on government employee information is worse than they initially told us.
As it turns out, 5.6 million people’s fingerprints have been stolen in a colossal hack on OPM earlier this year. The newly reported number is more than five times larger than the original estimate of 1.1 million stolen fingerprints, although the total number of people estimated to have been affected by the hack remains at 21.5 million.
Ironically, the announcement comes during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to the United States since taking office. While the hackers responsible for the OPM breach were definitely Chinese, the White House has been hesitant to point the finger at the Chinese government and has yet to retaliate for the cyber attack.
Yesterday, Xi repeatedly insisted that the Chinese government was not behind the attack, insisting it was the work of corporate espionage. While delivering a speech in Seattle, he said that China is eager to work with the United States to combat cyber theft, which he said their own government has fallen victim to as well.
Despite Xi’s insistence that his government was not behind the attack, everyone kind of knows he’s lying. After all, what good is the personal information of U.S. government employees and spies to corporations? While it’s clear that the federal government needs to ramp up their cyber security efforts, Paul Bonicelli blames President Obama’s foreign policy decisions that have weakened the United States’s global position. He writes:
The United States would have been better served by an OPM that was on its guard, but also by a posture in the world that warded off such unprecedented attacks. Every country that can spies in as sophisticated a way as possible, but for China to feel free to commit such an attack says a lot about how little it fears crossing the Obama administration.
Obama will get a chance to talk to Xi about the hack when the latter visits the White House on Friday, although if the past is any indicator, Obama will probably not bring any of this up.