Thursday, September 24, 2015
OPM Data Breach Included 5.6 Million Fingerprints
On September 23 the Office of Personnel Management acknowledged that the fingerprints of 5.6 million federal employees were included in the data stolen by hackers announced in early June. Previously the agency had stated that only 1.1 million sets of fingerprints were among the records of approximately 22 million individuals that were compromised. Having access to the fingerprints would allow the Chinese government, believed to be responsible for the hack, to identify intelligence agents, defense personnel or government contractors visiting China. Other data that was stolen, for example about bankruptcies and personal and sexual relationships, could be used for blackmailing these individuals. A senior US intelligence figure said that "there will be people we cannot send to China" as a result of the breach, adding that "That's only part of the damage." Unlike password or even Social Security Numbers, fingerprints cannot be changed, making the theft all the more fraught with consequences at a time when use of biometric identifiers is becoming more widespread.