The Chinese government has arrested a number of hackers that were related to the breach of the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) database this year, according to reports.
While the identities of the hackers remain unclear, the Chinese Government has, according to the Washington Post, arrested hackers connected to the OPM breach that exposed the records of over 22 million federal employees earlier this year. The move by the Chinese government to apprehend the suspects is one to cool tensions and ease diplomatic ties with the United States.
If reports and true and the those detained are indeed the hackers associated with the breach, the move is the first instance of accountability for one of the most comprehensive governmental data breaches in United States history. With the condition of anonymity, a US official spoke about the arrests by the Chinese government while casting doubt on the authenticity of such arrests. The official stated:
“We don’t know that if the arrests the Chinese purported to have made are the guilty parties. There is a history [in China] of people being arrested for things they didn’t do or other ‘crimes against the state.’”
The Chinese government’s involvement, if any, has been debated among US officials ever since the breach. More specifically, the China’s civilian government entity, the Ministry of State Security has been under the scanner. Beijing has steadfastly refused to take any blame for any of the breaches while insisting the Chinese government was not involved in the OPM breach that leaked the records of over 22 million federal employees.
If China has indeed caught the perpetrators, the arrests would make for a significant occasion. Speaking to the publication, a senior research scholar at the Columbia University School of International Public Affairs, Jason Healey, said:
“It would be the most important arrest that we’ve perhaps seen in cybercrime.”
The threat of possible economic sanctions by the United States levied against China is said to be the key measured that spurred on such action from China.
The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, was asked about the China’s claims to have arrested suspects related to the OPM breach. While he declined to comment, he noted that President Obama had spoken about cybersecurity concerns with President Xi in Paris recently. The Press Secretary insists that cybersecurity remains a “top priority of President Obama” in the relationship with China.