Hackers Net 5.6 Million Fingerprint Records In U.S. Government Breach

The U.S. government reported hackers got away with about 5.6 million fingerprint records, 4.5 million more than first reported, according to Reuters. The hackers stole security clearance data on millions of Defense Department and other U.S. government employees.

The change in number was reported by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as a result of an analysis of the data breach. An estimated 21.5 million people had Social Security identification numbers and other information stolen in the hacking incident his spring, the OPM estimated. The recent discovery of additional missing fingerprints has not affected the total number of people affected by the breach.

Chinese To Blame?

U.S. officials have privately blamed Chinese government hackers for the breach, but have not said so publicly. Officials said no evidence suggest the data has been abused, but they fear the theft could create counterintelligence issues.

During that analysis, officials “identified archived records containing additional fingerprint data not previously analyzed, “raising the estimated number who had fingerprint data stolen, the OPM statement said.

Also read: U.S. lawmakers move to protect ‘Dot-Gov’ domains following massive hacks

Data Misuse Limited For Now

OPM said the ability to misuse the data is currently limited. It acknowledged, however, that the threat could increase as technology evolves.

“Therefore, an interagency working group with expertise in this area … will review the potential ways adversaries could misuse fingerprint data now and in the future,” it said.

The working group includes the intelligence community as well as the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon.

“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,” OPM said.

OPM said the Defense Department and OPM will begin mailing notifications to the people whose information was stolen.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Lester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.