This is one of those “bad news” stories.  It has just been learned that back in March Chinese hackers successfully broke into very sensitive computer files maintained by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  As reported by Michael S. Schmidt, David E. Sander and Nicole Perlroth in the New York Times, Chinese hackers were targeting tens of thousands of files on Federal employees who have applied for top-secret security clearances (www.nytimes.com; “Chinese Hackers Pursue Key Data on U.S. Workers”; July 9).

This is frightening on many levels starting with the fact that the hackers were able to breach OPM’s e-QIP system which holds these, and other, employee files.  Second, the amount of personal and sensitive information that is contained in these top-secret security clearance applications makes it a treasure trove for hackers.  Applicants have to provide an array of sensitive information including, names of foreign contacts, financial data, and details about prior employment.

Senior officials and spokespersons for OPM and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have said that neither agency had “identified any loss of personally identifiable information.”   DHS has also said it has an emergency response team assessing this breach and that the team would mitigate any risks that are identified.

While that is good news, that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be future risks that personal and financial information has been stolen.  Federal employees need to be aware of this breach and vigilantly monitor financial accounts for any unauthorized charges or changes.