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China may have hacked Anthem to snoop on government officials and defense contractors

By Nathaniel Mott , written on February 6, 2015

From The News Desk

The data breach at the nation's second-largest health insurer might not have been motivated by the financial benefits of stealing information about millions of people.

Bloomberg reports it might actually have been another in a series of hacks by state-sponsored Chinese attackers meant to collect data about politicians and defense contractors.

In this case the hackers are believed to have stolen the names, employment information, birthdays, addresses, and social security numbers of some 80 million Anthem customers.

Much of this information was not encrypted, according to the Wall Street Journal, because doing so would have limited the utility Anthem could derive from all the personal data.

Yet the company often touts its security, largely because it manages health care for the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Administration, as Quartz notes.

While this data carries financial value for the hackers, it could also help state-sponsored groups conduct phishing attacks, which solicit information by posing as someone else.

A data breach at Community Health Systems, the nation's second-largest for-profit hospital company, discovered last year has also been attributed to Chinese state-sponsored hackers.

China has previously stolen information about government projects, new aircraft designs, negotiating tactics, and other secrets from government officials and outside contractors.