The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday confirmed a data breach involving the personally identifiable information of more than 240,000 current and former DHS employees.
The agency disclosed few details about how the information was compromised, though it stressed that the data was not stolen in a cyberattack, nor was it exposed to malicious activity. Instead, the files were discovered in the possession of a former DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) employee during an ongoing criminal investigation last May, the agency said.
The identity of the former employee was not disclosed, and the focus of the criminal investigation is unknown.
DHS employees whose information had been compromised—names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, positions, grades, and duty stations—received notification letters today, the agency said.
Why did it take roughly seven months to notify the affected employees? “The investigation was complex given its close connection to an ongoing criminal investigation,” the agency said on its website. “From May through November 2017, DHS conducted a thorough privacy investigation, extensive forensic analysis of the compromised data, an in-depth assessment of the risk to affected individuals, and comprehensive technical evaluations of the data elements exposed.”