Congress

Cummings nixes theory that contractor discovered OPM breach

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants to debunk the theory that a contractor stumbled onto the OPM breach during a demo.

The Office of Personnel Management discovered its own breach, says a leading Democratic watchdog.

After speculation that last summer's enormous breach was discovered during a CyTech Services product demonstration, lawmakers laid that theory to rest in a May 26 letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The letter included a timeline from a recent interview.

"The evidence obtained by the committee indicates that OPM first discovered the intrusion into its networks -- not CyTech -- and claims that CyTech was responsible for first detecting these attacks are inaccurate," the letter states.

The breach timeline given in the letter indicates that Brendan Saulsbury, an OPM engineering contractor, detected the breach on April 16, 2015, several days before CyTech arrived at OPM.

"It was basically flying under the radar as if it was a McAfee antivirus executable," Saulsbury said, according to Cummings' letter. "The problem is that OPM doesn't use McAfee, so that stood out right there to us that, at that point, I was 100 percent certain that this is malware that is beaconing out."

The letter also points to an April 17 email message -- again, days before CyTech's arrival -- that OPM IT Security Officer Jeff Wagner sent to then-CIO Donna Seymour in which he said a Cylance (not CyTech) tool had discovered malware.

The speculation that CyTech found the breach stemmed from a Wall Street Journal report.

CyTech never publicly claimed to have discovered the breach. The company's CEO, however, said the company helped OPM clean up after the breach on the basis of an oral contract and claims he is owed roughly $800,000. OPM has denied those claims, though its CEO has had some trouble with OPM.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) declined to co-sign the letter, which was addressed to the leaders of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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