The US Postal Service has called in the FBI after hackers apparently grabbed names, addresses, social security numbers and other sensitive records from its staff database.
It's feared miscreants got into USPS corporate servers, and swiped data that will be a lucrative haul for identity thieves and other fraudsters. USPS employs 500,000 full-time workers and 178,000 part-timers.
Bosses say names, dates of birth, social security numbers, home addresses, beginning and end dates of employment, emergency contact information and other records may have been accessed.
In addition to cracking the postal service payroll servers, the infiltrators also appear to have successfully taken root in one of the USPS’ callcenters – and could have collected the names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other information of people dialing in, the USPS warned. Anyone who called the center between January 1 and August 16 this year are at risk.
“Postal Service transactional revenue systems in Post Offices as well as on usps.com where customers pay for services with credit and debit cards have not been affected by this incident,” said the service in a statement.
“There is no evidence that any customer credit card information from retail or online purchases such as Click-N-Ship, the Postal Store, PostalOne!, change of address or other services was compromised.”
The USPS said workers targeted by identity thieves will be recompensed, and will be provided with a year’s free credit-monitoring of their bank accounts and credit scores.
Almost as soon as the news broke, rumors swirled that this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill financial fraud attack but something more sinister.
Unnamed US government sources have told reporters that Chinese state-backed hackers are to blame for the intrusion. No one is prepared to go on the record with an accusation, let alone any proof, however.
If Middle Kingdom meddlers are to responsible then the timing is certainly unfortunate. On Monday President Obama arrived in Beijing for a series of talks with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, and such an attack could make for awkward conversation over the dim sum.
Computer security is going to be one of the key items on the agenda for the talks between the two world leaders. The US has been accusing China of systematically plundering American corporations for intellectual property for years now, something China denies.
Meanwhile, the Asian superpower would like Uncle Sam to talk a bit more about the NSA hacking activities that Snowden chap has been gossiping about... ®