IT Compliance Advisor

Jun 11 2015   4:51PM GMT

U.S. government breach could have accessed private citizens’ data

Fran Sales Fran Sales Profile: Fran Sales

Tags:
Apple
Apple iOS
cybersecurity
Data breach
Data privacy
Hack
Safe Harbor

U.S. officials say the recent hack of government computer systems affects 4 million current and former federal employees, but the breach could have impacted private citizens, too. Also in the news: Apple hyped new privacy protections as it updates Siri, while U.S. and EU officials moved closer to Safe Harbor revisions.

Concern for private citizens’ data after U.S. government hack

U.S. officials announced last week that hackers breached the computer system of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in December 2014, compromising the personal information of about 4 million current and former federal employees. The intrusion is the largest known U.S. federal data breach in recent years, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S. government suspects that the breach was sponsored by the Chinese government, but China has denied its involvement. The hackers’ goal was to use the stolen personal data to recruit spies, access weapon plans and obtain other confidential information.

Sources told ABC News that federal investigators are now looking into whether the hack affected more than just the reported 4 million former and current employees, including private citizens who have never worked for the U.S. government.

At the G7 Summit in Germany earlier this week, President Barack Obama said that his administration will strengthen the nation’s cyberdefenses in the wake of the breach. “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,” he said at a news conference at the summit. He also encouraged Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation.

Apple updates Siri, extols user privacy

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this week, the company unveiled new “Siri” personal assistant features, including capabilities to scour through emails, correlate contacts and extract contextual data from private texts.

Despite how reliant these services are on user data, Apple VP of software engineering Craig Federghi stressed that the company keeps culled data as anonymous as possible and does not share it with third parties. He also said that Apple isolates that data to the user’s device, and that all the information stays under the user’s control.

“All of this is done on-device and it stays on-device under your control. We don’t mine your email, your photos or your contacts,” Federghi said during a speech at the WWDC. He also underscored that Apple has never used search queries to mine personal emails or photos, or to build user profiles.

U.S., EU officials move forward on Safe Harbor revisions

After allegations surfaced that American companies were spying on European citizens, U.S. and European Union officials announced they are finally closing in on updating the Safe Harbor agreement, according to The Wall Street Journal. Safe Harbor is a 15-year-old pact that regulates the way that U.S. companies export and handle European citizens’ personal data.

European officials are giving the U.S. another month to reach an accord on reforming the pact. EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova told the WSJ that disagreements remain between the two sides, particularly around the extent of how U.S. security authorities are legally allowed to access consumer data collected by U.S. companies.

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