Hacking Linked to China Exposes Millions of U.S. Workers

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Thursday announced what appeared to be one of the largest breaches of federal employees’ data, involving at least four million current and former government workers in an intrusion that officials said apparently originated in China.

The compromised data was held by the Office of Personnel Management, which handles government security clearances and federal employee records. The breach was first detected in April, the office said, but it appears to have begun at least late last year.

The target appeared to be Social Security numbers and other “personal identifying information,” but it was unclear whether the attack was related to commercial gain or espionage. The announcement of the intrusion came on the same day The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency had expanded warrantless surveillance of foreign hackers, an effort that could sweep up the information of innocent Americans.