The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said Thursday that hackers stole sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, on about 21.5 million people who have undergone background checks for security clearances since 2000.
Those exposed included 19.7 million people who applied for the clearances, plus 1.8 million nonapplicants, mostly spouses or co-habitants of applicants, the OPM said.
The 21.5 million affected is in addition to information on about 4.2 million current and former federal workers stolen in a separate but related incident. There is significant overlap between the two groups.
The United States has identified China as the leading suspect in the massive hacking — an assertion China's Foreign Ministry dismissed as “absurd logic.”
The incidents have outraged members of Congress and worried the millions of Americans affected since they were revealed last month. Some lawmakers have called for the resignation of Katherine Archuleta, the OPM’s director.
The OPM said in a press release that its investigation found no information at this time to suggest any misuse or further dissemination of the information stolen from its systems.
Background investigation records contained information on mental health and financial history provided by security clearance applicants and others contacted during investigations. The OPM said there was no evidence that separate systems storing federal employees’ health, financial, payroll and retirement records were affected by the hacking.
The OPM said it is highly likely that anyone who went through a background investigation after 2000 was affected by the cyberbreach. Those who underwent background checks before 2000 might be affected, but it is less likely, the agency said.