Hackers steal 5.6 million fingerprints in huge US data breach

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The White House, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial are seen across Lafayette Park from atop the roof of the historic Hay Adams hotel in Washington, May 4, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
The White House, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial are seen across Lafayette Park from atop the roof of the historic Hay Adams hotel in Washington, May 4, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

The number of people whose fingerprints were stolen by Chinese hackers has risen to a massive 5.6 million from the initially disclosed 1.1 million. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the main keeper of the federal government’s most important personnel records, announced the revised and larger figure on Wednesday.

The Guardian reported the U.S. government strongly believes the gigantic data breach was part of a Chinese intelligence operation that affected some 21.5 million existing and former federal employees or applicants.

Federal experts said the Chinese staged the hack to get a hold of informants inside the U.S. government. American officials also surmise the theft could help the Chinese recognise U.S. spies operating in China and in other countries.

President Barack Obama has warned China to end its cyber attacks on the federal government and on private firms or be prepared to face a battle where “weaponising the internet” will become a tool of national aggression, reported Channel News Asia. OPM believes China is working on a huge database of information about American officials or contractors who may enter the country. The challenge is of course that fingerprints, unlike passwords, cannot be reset.

OPM said a special inter-agency task force has been formed to review the possible ways China can misuse the fingerprints. Fox News said other personal data, including sexual relationships, work history, business acquaintances and criminal histories, were also stolen by China.  

OPM told Reuters it’s working with the Department of Defense to send notifications to those affected. In addition, free credit and theft monitoring services have been offered the victims.

5.6 Million Fingerprints Stolen in U.S. Personnel Data Hack (Credit: YouTube/Wochit News)

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