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China-linked group allegedly ‘hacks’ U.S human resource agency again


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(Bonny Apunyu)

U.S officials speaking on condition of anonymity have said U.S. government's human resources agency have been a victim of a second major cyber attack from suspected China-linked hackers, VOA reported Saturday.

According to reports, China has dismissed as “irresponsible,” the claim that it is linked to a  second attack on the Office of Personnel Management, or OPM, in which hackers accessed highly sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances for several agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

VOA says the highly personal data needed to obtain security clearances includes information about mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests and bankruptcies.  Applicants must also supply information on contacts and relatives, potentially exposing any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion.

Reports say in the first attack on OPM, announced last week, the hackers were reported to be in possession of sensitive personnel information on millions of federal workers. OPM said as many as four million current and former federal employees may have been affected by the December hacking.

However, the American Federation of Government Employees, a labor union, said Thursday that the hackers are in possession of personnel information on all federal employees.The AFGE reportedly said the breach represents an "abysmal failure on the part of the agency to guard data that has been entrusted to it by the federal workforce."

The second cyber attack was discovered during an investigation into the attack against federal employees.

The cyber attacks come two years after a federal government contractor, Edward Snowden, was able to steal tens of thousands of the National Security Agency's most sensitive documents.

VOA has quoted AFP, AP and Reuters for additional reporting on this news story.

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