WASHINGTON (AP) — Hackers stole Social Security numbers, health histories and other highly sensitive data from more than 21 million people, the Obama administration said Thursday, acknowledging that the breach of U.S. government computer systems was far more severe than previously disclosed.
The scope of the data breach — believed to be the biggest in U.S. history — has grown dramatically since the government first disclosed earlier this year that hackers had gotten into the Office of Personnel Management’s personnel database and stolen records for about 4.2 million people. Since then, the Obama administration has acknowledged a second, related breach of the systems housing private data that individuals submit during background investigations to obtain security clearances.
That second attack affected more than 19 million people who applied for clearances, as well as nearly 2 million of their spouses, housemates and others who never applied for security clearances, the administration said. Among the data the hackers stole: criminal, financial, health, employment and residency histories, as well as information about their families and acquaintances.
The new revelations drew indignation from members of Congress who have said the administration has not done enough to protect personal data in their systems, as well as calls for OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and her top deputies to resign. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, said Archuleta and her aides had “consciously ignored the warnings and failed to correct these weaknesses.”
“Such incompetence is inexcusable,” Chaffetz said in a statement.
House Republican leaders — Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise — also called for Archuleta’s resignation and said President Barack Obama must “take a strong stand against incompetence.”
The 21.5 million figure includes 19.7 million individuals who applied for a background investigation, and 1.8 million non-applicants, predominantly spouses or people who live with the applicants. Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators, and about 1.1 million include fingerprints, officials said.
Individuals who underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterwards are “highly likely” affected, officials said. Background checks before 2000 are less likely to have been affected, they said.