21.5 Million Social Security Numbers Stolen, U.S. Office Of Personnel Management Says

| by Reuters

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said on Thursday that hackers had stolen sensitive information - including Social Security numbers - of about 21.5 million people who have undergone background checks for security clearances since 2000.

Those exposed included 19.7 million people who applied for the clearances, plus 1.8 million non-applicants, mostly spouses or co-habitants of applicants, OPM said.

The 21.5 million affected is in addition to information about 4.2 million current and former federal workers stolen in a separate but related incident. There is significant overlap between the two groups.

The United States has identified China as the leading suspect in the massive hacking of the U.S. government agency, an assertion China's Foreign Ministry dismissed as "absurd logic."

The incidents have outraged members of Congress and worried the millions of Americans affected since they were revealed last month. Some lawmakers have called for the resignation of Katherine Archuleta, the OPM director.

OPM said in a release that its investigation had found no information "at this time" to suggest any misuse or further dissemination of the information stolen from its systems.

Background investigation records contained some information on mental health and financial history provided by security clearance applicants and others contacted during their investigations. OPM said there was no evidence that separate systems storing information on health, financial, payroll and retirement records of federal employees were affected by the hacking.

OPM said it is highly likely that anyone who went through a background investigation after 2000 was affected by the cyber breach. Those who underwent background checks before 2000 might be impacted but it is less likely, the personnel agency said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Trott)