WASHINGTON -- The federal government has for years failed to take basic steps to protect its data from hackers and thieves, putting at risk everything from nuclear secrets to the private tax information of hundreds of millions of Americans, records show.

In the latest example, the Office of Personnel Management is under fire for allowing its databases to be plundered by suspected Chinese cyberspies in what is being called one of the worst breaches in U.S. history. OPM repeatedly neglected to implement basic cybersecurity protections, its internal watchdog told Congress.

But the departments of Treasury, Transportation, State and Health and Human Services have significantly worse records, according to the most recent administration report to Congress under the Federal Information Security Management Act.

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Congress can hardly escape all blame. While President Barack Obama's latest budget plan called for a $14 billion increase for cyberdefenses, the House proposed a budget in March that didn't include specific funding for cybersecurity. Nor has Congress imposed much accountability on agencies that suffer breaches.

The lapses have persisted even as cyber-attacks have increased. The federal government dealt with 67,196 cyber incidents in the last fiscal year, up from 57,971 the year before, according to the White House. -- AP