At the GeoInt Symposium (a national spy conference) on Thursday in Washington, director of National Intelligence James Clapper hinted that China is the most likely guilty party in the cyber-attack of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The attack exposed the personal records (including social security numbers) of at least 4.2 million current and former federal employees.
Director Clapper was asked about China specifically in regards to the data breach and responded by saying, “that’s the leading suspect.” Earlier in his conference speech, the Director gave the communist super-power a backhanded compliment. “You have to kind of salute (them) for what they did”, announced Clapper. “If we had the opportunity to do that, I don’t think we’d hesitate for a minute.”
Prior to Thursday’s intelligence conference, U.S. and Chinese officials met for three days in D.C. to discuss high-level security issues.
Secretary of State John Kerry said no “finger pointing” was done by U.S. officials, but they made it “crystal clear” that cyber-attacks would no longer be tolerated.
A global cyber-activity “code of conduct” was also proposed by the U.S. and agreed to in principle by the Chinese.
The OPM hack, which could affect up to 18 million people, was first publicly announced by federal officials on June 4.
In April, President Obama issued an executive order giving the Treasury department authority to level sanctions (freeze assets, red-flag bank accounts), of foreign individuals who commit cyber-crimes and pose a “significant threat” to the U.S. government and domestic businesses.
White House spokesman John Earnest said in a press conference on Thursday that the feds would not tip off their “response to this incident, but (the tools) certainly are available.”
The latest incident is at least the fourth major hack of an American computer data system since October 2014, with most attacks originating from North Korea, Russia, and China.
Chinese officials have denied their government’s involvement in the breach of U.S. personnel records, calling the accusations “irresponsible and unscientific”.
[Wall Street Journal]