Hacking of American companies by Chinese hackers is not particularly startling as it is going on all of the time, however the federal government is now admitting that back in March Chinese hackers were able to hack into the data bases of the Office of Personnel Management and gain access to personal information on thousands of government workers. What is particularly troublesome is that the Office of Personnel Management manages a program called e-QIP where federal employees who are seeking security clearances must provide much personal information including personal financial data. It is not known what the purpose of the hacking was and whether or not it was government sanctioned or not. What is known is that, just as the hacking into the computers of the United States Department of Energy last week, showed, government databases are just as vulnerable as those of private companies.
So what does this mean to you?
First and foremost if you are someone whose information was maintained by the Office of Personnel Management you should be on heightened alert for identity theft. You should check your credit report with each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You also would be wise to put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit bureaus to prevent someone with personal information about you from gaining access to your credit report and utilizing your credit. You can find a detailed explanation of credit freezes along with instructions for getting one in the right hand column of the first page of Scamicide. As for the rest of us, this is yet another lesson that you are only as safe from identity theft as the places with the weakest security that hold personal information about you. Whenever possible limit the amount of personal information held by companies and governmental agencies with which you do business. Also, do not leave your credit card number on file with any retailer with which you do business regularly. It may be convenient to do so, but it increases your risk of identity theft if the company is hacked and your data is compromised.