China is the biggest national security threat to the United States of America. And the U.S. government gave it the ability to target me when it allowed the Chinese to infiltrate the computer networks of the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) and steal my most sensitive data. I received a letter from the OPM sometime around July 2015, informing me that my personal data (including data from my background check for my former top secret security clearance) was among the information that the Chinese purloined. If you don’t remember this Chinese espionage operation, or if you don’t know how serious it is, read, “Why the OPM Hack Is Far Worse Than You Imagine,” at Lawfare. It provides detailed information on just what the Chinese stole along with how damaging that espionage is.
Some of the things the Chinese may have obtained on me include: names and addresses of family members and acquaintances, the personal interview the investigator conducted with me as part of my security clearance background check, my social security number, and my entire work and personal history. The Chinese also may have gotten my fingerprints. So basically the Chinese have everything they need to destroy my life and worse. And keep in mind, the U.S. government has never announced any kind of condemnation or public response to this cyberattack like it is now doing with Russia.
Think about it. The Chinese don’t just have my life history; they have information on my family, friends, neighbors, and others. Think what they could do to me with that information alone. Now add in the fact that they have my SSN and possibly my fingerprints. The Chinese could literally implicate me at a scene of a crime, an international incident, or anything else by placing copies of my fingerprints at the location of their choosing.
As far-fetched as that might seem (and it likely is at this point), it’s not an unreasonable worry. Bill Gertz reported earlier this week that actual consequences have already occurred from the OPM hack. “The threat was not theoretical. In the months after the OPM breach, several former intelligence officials began receiving threatening telephone calls that authorities believe stemmed from the compromised information obtained from OPM background investigation data hacked by the Chinese.”
Media, politicians, and know-nothing pundits are currently focused on the danger of Russia and its cyberattacks. Russia truly is a threat but their focus on it is solely for concerns unrelated to that threat. Meanwhile, China is a much bigger danger (cyber and otherwise) to the United States than Russia is.
And the threat that China poses to the U.S. isn’t just on a national level. It’s on a personal level for me and millions of others whom the U.S. government endangered by allowing China to successfully conduct an espionage operation inside OPM networks. That operation now leaves us vulnerable to targeting, framing, and any other harm the Chinese can imagine by using the most sensitive of our nonpublic personal information against us.