According to U.S. officials cited by the L.A. Times, China and Russia are cross-indexing the mountain of data stolen in the Office of Personnel Management hack earlier this year with other major data breaches, including stolen airline bookings and the Ashley Madison subscriber database, to identify intelligence officials, their agents, and assets.
By searching this cross-indexed data for certain patterns, it becomes possible to pick out individuals whose behavior and interaction with known intelligence agents suggests they might be spies, or contacts for secret agents. The enemy can also use this data to target American assets that could be susceptible to recruitment or blackmail.
“A foreign spy agency now has the ability to cross-check who has a security clearance, via the OPM breach, with who was cheating on their wife via the Ashley Madison breach, and thus identify someone to target for blackmail,” explained Peter W. Singer of the New America Foundation. Top-shelf spy agencies conduct this sort of data analysis all the time, but they do not usually have the sheer volume of information fed to them by the OPM hack – the Rosetta Stone that will help them interpret, and weaponize, the data exposed in many lesser breaches.
When the Times asked counter-intelligence chief William Evanina if these data-mining weapons had already been used against American operatives, he replied, “Absolutely.”
Other officials cited in the article stated that “at least one clandestine network of American engineers and scientists who provide technical assistance to U.S. undercover operatives and agents overseas has been compromised.”
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