21 million affected by breach linked to federal background checks

The federal government confirmed on Thursday that hackers stole the Social Security numbers of more than 21 million people. More than 19 million of the victims had applied for background checks, and nearly 2 million victims were family members of the applicants.

The scope of the data breach, which is believed to be the biggest in U.S. history, has grown dramatically since the government first disclosed earlier this year that hackers had gotten into the Office of Personnel Management's personnel database and stolen records for about 4.2 million people. Since then, the Obama administration has acknowledged a second, related breach of the systems housing private data that individuals submit during background investigations to obtain security clearances.

The second attack affected more than 19 million people who applied for clearances, as well as nearly 2 million of their spouses, housemates and others who never applied for security clearances. Among the data the hackers stole: criminal, financial, health, employment and residency histories, as well as information about their families and acquaintances.

Who is affected?

The affected applicants include current and former federal government employees and contractors, as well as individuals who had applied for government jobs.

If an individual underwent a background investigation through the Office of Personnel Management in 2000 or later, it is “highly likely” that they are impacted by this cyber breach. If an individual underwent a background investigation prior to 2000, they still may be impacted, but it is less likely.

What information was stolen?

Social Security numbers
Residency and educational history
Employment history
Health history
Criminal history
Financial history
Usernames and passwords
Information about immediate family and other personal and business acquaintances

You can find more information at https://www.opm.gov/cybersecurity

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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