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Hackers steal 5.6 million fingerprints of U.S. government workers

September 23, 2015

Chertoff Launches 10-Fingerprint Scanners At Dulles AirportChertoff Launches 10-Fingerprint Scanners At Dulles Airport
International airline passengers are fingerprinted on all ten fingers on arrival at Dulles International Airport December 10, 2007 in Sterling, Virginia. Digital fingerprints and photographs will now be collected from all non-U.S. citizens between the ages of 14 and 79 to check the collected data against joint FBI-DHS watchlist of criminals, immigration violators, and known or suspected terrorists. Photograph by Win McNamee—Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to the U.S. this week to speak to President Obama about cyberespionage, something China has repeatedly been accused of. While tension has been building, it will be especially high, considering the Office of Personnel Management said Wednesday that 5.6 million workers’ fingerprints have been compromised in an earlier attack, which the CIA says was perpetrated by Chinese hackers.

According to the agency, the hackers won’t be able to do much with the data, but as the New York Times writes, the rise of biometrics everywhere—including iPhones—could mean the severity is being downplayed.

This fingerprint data came in a data breach that contained other personal information from federal employees, contractors and applicants.

Since the U.S. hasn’t actually accused China of being responsible for the latest breach, this issue won’t come up in the talks, but the two leaders are expected to take steps to make rules to tame the otherwise wild cyberspace.