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Whoops, Turns Out Hackers Stole 5.6 Million People's Fingerprints from the American Government

China vehemently denies that its hackers were behind the breach.

af Drew Millard
23 september 2015, 11:03pm

Image by West Midlands Police via Flickr

Earlier this year, the United States government admitted it had been subject to a massive data breach in which the personal information for 21.5 million government employees and former employees was leaked through a hack of Office of Personnel Management security clearance applications. The Washington Post quoted FBI Director James B. Comey as calling the stolen data "a treasure trove of information about everybody who has worked for, tried to work for, or works for the United States government."

Then, earlier today, OPM issued a statement acknowledging that their initial estimate of 1.1 million fingerprints was inaccurate and that more than 5.6 million people's prints had been compromised in the June breach. "Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited," the agency explained. "However, this probability could change over time as technology evolves."

OPM is responsible for the staffing of government agencies, providing security clearances, and many other services concerning civilian government employees. Those affected by the breach included current and former government employees, as well as their spouses and partners.

Though US investigators have said they believe China is behind the hack, the Chinese government has denied it. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Chinese President Xi Jinping flatly rejected the accusation, saying that, "the Chinese government does not engage in theft of commercial secrets in any form" and that his nation is "ready to strengthen cooperation with the US side on this issue."

The news of the fingerprint hack comes just days before the Chinese president is scheduled to arrive in Washington, DC, for a state visit with President Barack Obama. It's safe to say that the theft of millions of federal government records will be on their agenda.

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