Official says hack got up to 25,000 Homeland Security workers' files

Database at business that ran background checks was exposed

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WASHINGTON — The internal records of as many as 25,000 Homeland Security Department employees were exposed during a recent computer break-in at a federal contractor that handles security clearances, an agency official said Friday.

The official said the number of victims could be greater. The department was informing employees whose files were exposed in the hacking of contractor USIS, warning them to monitor their financial accounts.

Earlier this month, USIS acknowledged the break-in, saying its internal cybersecurity team had detected what appeared to be an intrusion with "all the markings of a state-sponsored attack." Neither USIS nor government officials have speculated on the identity of the foreign government.

USIS, once called U.S. Investigations Services, has been under fire in Congress recently for its performance in conducting background checks on National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden and on Aaron Alexis, a military contractor employee who killed 12 people during shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington in September 2013.

Private contractors perform background checks on more than two-thirds of the 4.9 million government workers with security clearances, and USIS handles nearly half of that number.

The Justice Department filed a civil complaint in January against USIS alleging that the firm defrauded the government by submitting at least 665,000 security clearance investigations that had not been properly completed and then tried to cover up its actions.