A recent security breach that may have involved Social Security numbers, home addresses and other personal information belonging to more than 850,000 current and former Army National Guard members was caused by an improperly handled data transfer, not hackers, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Personal information from Guard members who've served since 2004 "was inadvertently transferred to a non-[Defense Department]-accredited data center by a contract employee," National Guard Bureau spokesman Maj. Earl Brown said in a news release announcing the breach late Friday.

The transfer was part of a budget analysis, Guard spokesman Kurt Rauschenberg told Army Times on Tuesday via email, adding that "[a]lthough this matter is identified as a breach, technically, it was more of a poor security practice."

The bureau has established a Web page offering identity-protection advice to Guard members. It also has established a toll-free call center at 877-276-4729, which will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time, Monday-Friday.

"We believe the specific files containing [personal information were] safeguarded and not used to compromise anyone's identity," Rauschenberg said. "[H]owever, we want the public to know what happened just in case."

About 868,000 men and women have served in the Army National Guard since since October 2004, Rauschenberg said.

The incident was announced a day after the Office of Personnel Management revealed a records breach that may have affected 21.5 million federal employees, including potentially millions of service members dating back to at least 2000. The events are unrelated, according to the National Guard release.

OPM announced Thursday that it would provide various fraud, identity-theft and credit monitoring services for those whose information may have been compromised.

Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.

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