A security firm has come out with an idea as to how the information of millions of federal employees, stolen in a hack of the U.S. government personnel office, could be used.
CrowdStrike founder Dmitri Alperovitch told Fox News that the hackers — believed to have links to China — responsible infiltrating the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and other networks are building a “Facebook of Everything” that could be used “to embarrass you publicly and force you to work for the Chinese government.”
“It’s, in effect, a private version of Facebook with much more detail about your life than even Facebook has that the Chinese now have access to,” Alperovitch told the news outlet.
The OPM breach affecting 22.5 million people was announced in June, and hackers were believed to have accessed a form known as Standard Form 86, which requires applicants to fill out deeply personal information about mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests and bankruptcies. They also require the listing of contacts and relatives, potentially exposing any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion. Both the applicant’s Social Security number and that of his or her cohabitant is also required.
Shortly after the hack was announced, Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com, said that these records would “sure make the job easier” to blackmail someone.
According to Fox News, sources close to the investigation worry that the information from the hack could affect more than just employees with ties to the federal government, but also their families. Alperovitch told Fox the hackers could target children to “try to get them to reveal some information about their parent’s work and use that, eventually, for espionage activities. Information that has been collected about them may be used decades later.”
James Clapper, the nation’s top intelligence official, told the House intelligence committee last week that a muted response to most cyberattacks has created a permissive environment in which hacking can be used as a tool short of war to benefit adversaries and inflict damage on the United States.
“Until such time as we do create both the substance and the mindset of deterrence, this sort of thing is going to continue,” Clapper said, speaking specifically about the hack of federal personnel information linked to China in which personal data on current and former U.S. government employees, contractors, job applicants and relatives was stolen. “We will continue to see this until we create both the substance and the psychology of deterrence.”
While Clapper expressed his fear that information could be used to expose or blackmail American intelligence operatives, he said the U.S. has yet to see any evidence of the data being used in that way.
The administration has yet to act in response to the OPM hack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Front page image via Shutterstock.