The U.S. Postal Service confirmed on Monday its computer networks were breached, exposing the personal information of the federal agency’s 800,000 employees, including names, social security numbers, phone numbers, addresses and dates of employment.
Additionally, the massive breach may have also compromised the information of customers who contacted its call center between January 1 and August 16; however, local post office customers or those using its website – usps.com – were not affected.
According to the Washington Post, USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said the attack was likely carried out by “a sophisticated actor that appears not to be interested in identity theft or credit card fraud.”
Partenheimer noted the agency was first alerted of suspicious activity during mid-September and took immediate action to mitigate the impact of the attack. Employees were notified of the compromise on Monday, as the FBI continues to investigate the incident.
“Fortunately, we have seen no evidence of malicious use of the compromised data and we are taking steps to help our employees protect against potential misuse of their data,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahue in a statement.
Although perpetrators of the attack have not been identified, reports claim the Chinese government may be involved in the intrusion.
The data theft announcement came as President Obama began his visit to Beijing, where he would meet President Xi Jinping to discuss the countries’ relations.
“With the recent compromise of USIS, UPM and now the USPS employee data compromised, the question is why would attackers be after this type of data?” asked Tripwire security analyst Ken Westin.
“Any data on government employees can be useful for espionage. It may not be the data itself, but when linked with other data, such as social security numbers, there are a great deal of insights that can be gathered through patterns and connections,” explained Westin.
The USPS has responded by implementing new safeguards and providing employees with free credit monitoring services for one year.