There were two or three ideas floating around this morning that I could have written about. First we had Donald Trump saying, “I’m really rich” during his speech announcing that he was running for the Republican Presidential nomination. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a candidate say that. Trump is always worth a few lines. Then last night we had LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers losing for the fourth time in the NBA finals, which I cheered. This was after he proclaimed, “I’m the best player in the world.” One headline may have said it best, “LeBron James May Go Down As The Greatest Loser Ever.” Good for him.
I decided to hold off on those two wonderful issues and write a personal account about the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the federal employee data breach.
I know the excitement is building, so please read on…
It seems just about any time that personal data in the Federal Government is hacked, I make the list.
I received an official-looking letter from a “Secure Processing Center” in Livonia, Michigan, on Friday or Saturday informing me that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently became aware of the “cybersecurity incident” affecting its systems that may have exposed my personal information.
I was already suspicious – why is some company in Livonia, Michigan, sending me a letter wanting to help me. I know that the address for OPM is 1900 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20415-1000.
Several years ago I wrote about getting “Mail for the Dead” so I was thinking this could be a trick.
Although I was suspicious, the first line in the fourth paragraph made me giggle: “OPM takes very seriously its responsibility to protect your information.”
My first thought was, “Maybe you don’t take it seriously enough.”
I believe this may be the third time I’ve received a notification like this. There was the Veterans Administration time, the Census Bureau time, and now OPM. If I were only this lucky in the lottery! Even legislative branch staffers are getting these notices from OPM!
I spent a few minutes checking the authenticity of the letter because I still have some of that security forces blood from my Air Force days running through my veins, so I must verify that the letter is real! How do I know the letter is not something the hackers came up with after they hacked into OPM’s data, so they could send me to a website to enter my personal information and then stick it to me?
Do you see my dilemma? All the while I’m checking on this, I kept hearing the Elvis song, “Suspicious Minds” playing in the background:
We’re caught in a trap…
Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?
After a lengthy verification process, I became a proud subscriber (for free) to “Protector Plus” for 18 months.
In the four page (front and back) letter from OPM, they offered a lot of advice. One part was titled, “How to avoid becoming a victim” which again was good for a chuckle.
I hope the folks who were supposed to protect my personal data at OPM are ordered to read that section over and over.
As for the Federal Government taking steps to prevent data from being hacked, they try their best – but it’s Federal Government style. The last time I was issued a government computer, the login and passwords had to be something like at least 18 characters with nine being numbers and five being symbols and the remaining four had to be the first four letters of your third pet’s name. If you did not have a pet, you could enter the first three letters of your mother’s maiden name and her best grade in middle school biology. When I traveled with my laptop, I felt like I was carrying the President’s black briefcase (also called the nuclear football).
It was almost that bad.
When we had official government meetings (mostly held on tropical islands) during which we had to use our laptops, you could see people checking their smartphones where they had stored login info or they would be seen pulling out their purses or wallets to find the piece of paper on which they had written (in a coded form of course) their password and login to the government computer.
So yes, the Federal government and its employees are working hard to prevent data breaches.
I think I hear that Elvis song again…