Federal workers watching finances, credit closely after recent government data breach

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – On any given weekday, some 40,000 people go to work at Redstone Arsenal. It’s a safe bet that most of them have had their personal information stolen. The same goes for contractors, and even families. “It’s scary,”  says Luereen Phillips.

Luereen is an Internet Technology Specialist at Redstone’s Aviation and Missile Command. It’s her job to answer the questions from fellow workers, and to even reassure them.  But Luereen has her own questions, too.

“What happened? What’s the breakdown? There are rules, there are policies all the way up to Congress level that  mandate certain things have to happen, and they didn’t happen,” said Luereen.

The right things didn’t happen at the Office of Personnel Management.  OPM’s website is covered with information about the data breach, calling it two separate but related incidents.  However it’s described, it involves the personal information from more than 21 million Americans.

The most serious data stolen was that contained on security clearance forms that are required for many types of government work.  Everything from Social Security numbers, to information on family and friends is included on the forms.   People like retired Army test pilot Pablo Herrera say they’re angry.

“I am, because I was under the impression… I was under the belief that we were better than that, that our security was better than that,” said Pablo, who hasn’t been notified yet that his information was part of the breach.

Retired Lt. General Jim Link, a former Commander for AMCOM at Redstone, is also waiting on his notification.  General Link’s information was compromised because of a security clearance form filled out as a defense contractor in 2005. “When we federal employees give all the information they ask for, with that comes trust. Trust that it’s going to be protected, and when it’s not protected, we do feel violated,” says General Link.

The General believes what many other people believe. The OPM database was hacked by China’s government. “You know, I don’t think in this particular instance it’s trying to steal identity for financial gain. I think it’s more espionage,” said General Link.

The Office of Personnel Management makes no claim on who might be to blame for the hack, but there is a recommendation for those affected to sign up for credit monitoring.  That’s the sort of data theft people understand.

“I am concerned that I’m going to look at my bank account one day, and there won’t be any money there, or somebody is going to try and steal my identity… do some things that are going to affect me for a long time,” said AMCOM worker Lucinda Edwards.

OPM recommends a service that covers everything from credit monitoring, to a Social Security number trace.  Unfortunately, you have to also do your own monitoring.

“You’ve got to look at your bank accounts, even your medical records because somebody could be using your information to go to the doctor, or in case of a crime, give them your information instead of theirs,” says Luereen Phillips.

Millions of Americans now have this worry, which is likely to last for years. They know about the hack, and they know their identity has been stolen. They just don’t know who did it or why. There is a thought they do share, though. “Somebody needs to be accountable,” said Lucinda Edwards.

Katherine Archuleta resigned under pressure from her job as head of the Office of Personnel Management. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the breach, or the fact that the affected workers will have this as part of their lives for years to come.

For more information about the data hack, and recommendations on action you can take, visit opm.gov/cybersecurity.

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