Published on June 25th, 2015 📆 | 7508 Views ⚑


Agency chief: Hacker used contractor credential
The head of the government agency that suffered two large cyberattacks said Tuesday that a hacker gained access to its records with a credential used by a federal contractor.

Despite calls for her ouster, the director of the Office of Personnel Management said that if anyone is responsible for the breaches, it's the hackers.

Katherine Archuleta said during a Senate hearing that old computer networks were to blame for the cyber-break-ins that exposed private information on nearly every federal employee and personal histories of millions with security clearances.

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"If there is anyone to blame, it's the perpetrators," she said.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee panel to which she testified, said agency officials are blaming antiquated systems, but not all the breaches occurred exclusively on older networks.

"I still don't think we know exactly what's gone on," Boozman said later in the afternoon on his way out of a classified briefing on cybersecurity.

Archuleta told a House oversight committee last week that many of the agency's systems were too old to support encryption, which would have made the data harder to steal. But the agency's independent watchdog is challenging that assessment in written testimony to be delivered today to the same committee.

Agency Inspector General Patrick McFarland said some of the systems involved in the data breach were modern, so encryption could have been used.

Boozman and other senators said there was concern that the people who stole the information could use it to file fake tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

President Barack Obama has said he continues to have confidence in Archuleta, although several Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called on her to step down -- the latest being Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

"Under Katherine Archuleta's watch, OPM allowed one of the largest breaches of federal employees' personal information in our nation's history," Daines said Tuesday. "Ms. Archuleta has refused to take accountability for this great failure -- in turn failing the American people, whom she swore an oath to protect and defend."

Daines, who worked in Montana's technology sector for more than 12 years, is among the Americans who received a notice that his information might have been compromised in the latest breach.

Archuleta testified that an "adversary" somehow obtained a user credential used by KeyPoint Government Solutions, a contractor based in Loveland, Colo.

She didn't say specifically when that occurred or whether it was linked to the two cyberbreaches.

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"I want to be very clear that while the adversary leveraged -- compromised -- a KeyPoint User credential to gain access to OPM's network, we don't have any evidence that would suggest that KeyPoint as a company was responsible or directly involved in the intrusion," she said.

The agency has not identified any "pattern or material deficiency" that led to the compromise, Archuleta said.

She said the cyberattacks were discovered because of the agency's stepped-up efforts in the past 18 months to improve security, but she acknowledged the office still has work to do. She said that in fiscal 2014 and 2015, the agency committed nearly $67 million toward shoring up its information technology infrastructure and in June of last year began completely redesigning the network.

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