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Those affected include government job applicants, federal contractors, and over a million of their partners, the Office of Personnel Management said.

The figure is more than five times higher than the number of people that were feared to have been affected.

The data breach, which came to light in April, was widely blamed on China.

Authorities in Beijing have publicly denied any involvement.

The breach prompted a series of hearings in Congress and widespread criticism of the state of US cyber defences.

Last month, officials said personnel records of 4.2 million current and former federal government employees had been stolen in an incident.

On Thursday, the OPM said that while investigating that breach they discovered additional information had also been compromised, including the social security numbers of 21.5 million individuals.

The stolen data also includes health and financial information, criminal records, and the names and addresses of government employees and their relatives.

Those affected include 19.7 million people who underwent background checks and 1.8 million others, mostly the partners of job applicants.

BBC

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