‘Worst hack in US history’ just got a lot worse for govt employees

29 Jun 2015

Despite already being described as one of the most damaging data heists in US history, the breach of the US government’s personnel files in early June has been revealed to be worse than previously thought, with employees’ highly-personal revelations now in the hands of the accused.

Fears over how many of its federal employees were now vulnerable following the data breach grew exponentially soon after it was first revealed, with the expected number of hacked growing from 4m employees to as many as 14m.

And now, according to The Daily Beast, those affected have a lot more to fear after sources from within the government confirmed that included among the details were what are known as ‘adjacent files’.

Among these files are the details that were voluntarily submitted, including any previous drug abuse, criminal past, sexual partners and whether they have any previous gambling addiction issues.

The details revealed by employees to the government is part of its plans to quickly allow authorities to have leads to trace an employee should they decide to reveal any national security secrets, not that it worked with Edward Snowden.

According to the officials who have revealed the details of these rather personal files, many of the questions posed to potential employees or contractors can be considered incredibly personal, as well as probing any potential connections with journalists.

More damaging than Snowden leak

One former security official in the US government believes the amount of details revealed, and their potential to cause harm to individuals as well as the US government, puts its significance ahead of the files revealed by Snowden in 2013.

“This is worse than Snowden, because at least programs that were running before the leaks could be replaced or rebuilt,” the former official said. “But the Office of Public Management, that’s the gift that keeps on giving. You can’t rebuild people.”

Until now, a number of the adjacent files have been published online, but with names omitted, revealing the extent to which the line of questioning goes into with regard to the most personal of details, with one file revealing: “Applicant engaged in a long-distance extramarital affair with a friend’s wife for more than 20 years.”

Inevitably, with so many personal details obtained by whoever was behind the massive data breach – with many in the US pointing the finger at China – the ability to coerce government employees into revealing further details is now much more likely.

Job interview image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic