Credit Susan Walsh/Associated Press
WASHINGTON â An unknown computer intruder gained access to employee information for thousands of staff members at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, but on Monday officials played down the significance.
While the episode is under investigation, âthere is no indication at this time that there is any breach of personally identifiable information,â said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Justice Department.
It is unclear when the breach occurred or whether it is connected to one last fall that exposed some of the personal emails of Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, and John O. Brennan, the director of the C.I.A.
The breach does not appear to have resulted from a traditional hack using outside computers to penetrate the system, but rather from an intruder who âimpersonatedâ a government employee and used that information to get into other parts of the system, officials said. They would not elaborate on how that was done.
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A much bigger intrusion last year at the Office of Personnel Management â thought to have been carried out by Chinese hackers â exposed security clearance dossiers and sensitive information for nearly 22 million Americans. In that episode, and in other recent cyberattacks against the United States government, officials initially described the breach in more limited terms, but later revealed much wider damage.