Breach of federal personnel records likely tied to Anthem, Premera attacks

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday hackers accessed the agency's computer system, compromising the data of nearly 4 million government workers. Now, forensic evidence suggests the hackers who accessed the OPM's database are the same ones who accessed the networks of Anthem and Premera Blue Cross earlier this year, according to a Bloomberg report.

The attack on the OPM's computer system was discovered in April, and investigators believe the hackers gained access late last year, a U.S. official speaking with anonymity told Bloomberg.

Individuals affected by the OPM breach are those who applied for or were granted security clearances, and compromised information includes Social Security numbers, birth date, place of birth and benefit selections, Donna Seymour, CIO of the OPM, told Bloomberg. Financial and health information were not compromised.

Investigators believe the cyberattack was carried out by government-linked Chinese hackers who are seeking healthcare records and personal information from sources including payers, government agencies and federal contractors, according to the report.

The hacking techniques discovered in the OPM breach, Anthem breach and Premera breach are similar enough that threat intelligence researchers can link the three incidences with "high confidence," according to John Hultquist, senior manager of cyber espionage threat intelligence at iSIGHT Partners.

In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington said China does not allow cybercrimes and actively combats violations.

"Cyberattacks conducted across countries are hard to track and therefore the source of attacks is difficult to identify," spokesman Zhu Haiquan wrote in his statement. "Jumping to conclusions and making a hypothetical accusation is not responsible and counterproductive."

In February, Indianapolis-based Anthem reported hackers accessed personal information of nearly 80 million former and current customers and employees. Then in March, Mountlake Terrace, Wash.-based Premera Blue Cross reported a cyberattack affecting 11 million customers, employees and business affiliates.

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