In Germany on Monday, Obama declined to say whether he believed China was behind the OPM cyber attack, the second in less than a year on the agency that holds personnel data a security clearance information for the federal workforce.
But he said the United States has old computer systems with “significant vulnerabilities” and needs to be “much more aggressive” in stepping up defenses. He urged the U.S. Congress to move forward on passing cybersecurity legislation.
“In some cases, it’s non-state actors who are engaging in criminal activity and potential theft,” he said. “In the case of state actors, they’re probing for intelligence or in some cases trying to bring down systems in pursuit of their various foreign policy objectives.”
U.S. government officials and cyber analysts say Chinese hackers are using high-tech tactics to build massive databases that could be used for traditional espionage, such as recruiting spies, or gaining access to secure data on other networks.
The latest incident gave the hackers access to a trove of personal information, including birthdates, Social Security numbers, previous addresses and security clearances.
One official said the stolen information would enable an intelligence service to chart out relationships among U.S. government employees and build pictures of individuals and their families, potentially enabling them to figure out ways to target or blackmail people for espionage purposes.
The political rhetoric is only going to increase in the coming days, as the US and China meet to discuss these incidents. What I find curious is how the US leverages the media to portray the government as hapless victims while China rarely discusses US breach attempts, successful or otherwise.