Chinese hackers successfully accessed U.S. government computer networks in March apparently hoping to find information about "tens of thousands of employees who have applied for top-secret security clearances," The New York Times reports.
The newspaper says the attack centered on the Office of Personnel Management was reportedly detected and blocked — but not before the hackers had gotten into some of the agency's databases.
The government hasn't "identified any loss of personally identifiable information," a senior Homeland Security official tells the Times, which notes that it's not clear whether the hackers were working for China's government.
The latest report comes more than a year after a U.S. security firm traced hacking attacks on U.S. companies to a Chinese military unit — and months after the U.S. leveled formal accusations against five Chinese military officials.
Those charges angered Chinese officials, who said the U.S. uses a double standard when it comes to its international stance on hacking.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is currently in China for annual talks that he says have already touched on the subjects of hacking and electronic theft. Those sessions, titled the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, began Wednesday.
"We had a frank exchange on cyber issues at our strategic security dialogue," Kerry said Thursday. But The Associated Press notes that "Kerry said he and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew only were notified of the latest accusation of wrongdoing after the gathering's conclusion."