It’s been a month since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced a massive hack on federal employee records, but that has not been enough time for the wound to heal.
“My primary concern is what will now be done with the personal information that was breached?” said Tony Mazzoccoli, a State Department employee.
The stolen information included names and Social Security numbers that cyber thieves can use for espionage or bogus financial transactions. But health information of individuals seeking security clearances apparently also was tapped in another breach OPM announced several days after the first one.
“Our members are very worried, very concerned,” said Matt Biggs, legislative and political director of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.
That hack apparently exposed a “questionnaire for national security positions.” Also known as SF-86, the 127-page form asks very detailed questions, including many about health. Section 21, for example, asks “have you consulted with a health care professional regarding an emotional or health condition” and requests the name and contact information for that health care professional.
This is important because last year the FBI warned about cyber criminals selling electronic health records (EHR) on the underground market. While the information in the questionnaire is not the same as the electronic health records physicians keep, the FBI’s notice points to the lucrative market for health-related information. Stolen electronic health records can fetch “$50 for each partial EHR, compared to $1 for a stolen social security number or credit card number,” the FBI said. “EHR can then be used to file fraudulent insurance claims, obtain prescription medication, and advance identity theft. EHR theft is also more difficult to detect, taking almost twice as long as normal identity theft.”
Next week, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta plans to release the number of people whose information was targeted in the attack on security clearance records and begin notifying them, according to union leaders who met with her on Monday.
OPM reported on June 4 that personal information belonging to 4.2 million former and current federal employees was stolen in one cyber hack. In the course of investigating that theft, OPM said it “discovered that additional systems were compromised. These systems included those that contain information related to the background investigations of current, former, and prospective Federal government employees, as well as other individuals for whom a Federal background investigation was conducted.”
Archuleta told Congress that she could not confirm media reports that 18 million people might have been affected by the breaches, but an OPM statement said “it is important to note that this is an ongoing investigation that could reveal additional exposures.”
“We are hoping to have a number next week,” said Samuel Schumach, OPM’s press secretary.
Senior exes more satisfied, but not at DOD
A new report shows that top-level federal civil servants are happier in their jobs than those with less pay and power. That might not be a surprise, but it can be a problem.
The Defense Department has a different problem — low satisfaction levels for its Senior Executive Service (SES) members. Defense ranks at the bottom of large agencies in this category, according to the Partnership for Public Service, while Army and the Navy senior executives experienced the largest declines.
The Partnership drilled into data from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and found that “senior executives have a much higher overall Best Places to Work satisfaction and commitment score than their employees.”
That makes the Defense scores all the more striking.
“Results for the SES members in DOD’s Office of the Secretary are notably poor,” the Partnership found. “Of all organizations where SES scores are available, the DOD Office of the Secretary was the only one where the senior executives scored lower than all other staff (51.6 for SES members versus 58.7 for all other staff ).”
The Pentagon did not respond to the report’s findings about the secretary’s office, but a Navy official said it is “currently looking further into the data in order to analyze it and determine how we can effect positive change within our Senior Executive Service corps.”
The index score the Partnership uses in its annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government reports shows SES members had a rating of 81.8 in 2014, 22.3 points greater than the score for all other employees. The index score is based on answers to questions about job satisfaction.
If the gap grows too large, it can mean the senior executives “don’t see the world in the same way as the people they are managing,” said Max Stier, the Partnership’s president and chief executive. William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said the study shows “SES executives are disconnected from the rest of the workforce.”
Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said the gap is too large and “does call for efforts to be made to minimize it, including better training for all managers and executives regarding how to rehabilitate or remove poor performers.”