“The Chinese government recently arrested a handful of hackers it says were connected to the breach of Office of Personnel Management’s database this year, a mammoth break-in that exposed the records of more than 22 million current and former federal employees.

The arrests took place shortly before a state visit in September by President Xi Jinping, and U.S. officials say they appear to have been carried out in an effort to lessen tensions with Washington.

The identities of the suspects — and whether they have any connection to the Chinese government — remain unclear.

Hacks of government and corporate data emanating from China have been a constant source of tension between the United States and China. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with senior Chinese officials to establish guidelines for working together on law enforcement requests to investigate malicious cyberactivities. The OPM hack — which came in two waves — was also on the agenda.

If the individuals detained were indeed the hackers, the arrests would mark the first measure of accountability for what has been characterized as one of the most devastating breaches of U.S. government data in history.”

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Author: Ellen Nakashima