There have been several Congressional hearings on cyber-terrorism, yet with such an emergency and threat, no solution is forthcoming.
From AEI: “America’s intelligence leaders have made clear the biggest threat today is cyber and counterintelligence. Who are the largest perpetrators of these types of attacks? The intelligence report singles out Russia and China as first examples. These nations have “highly sophisticated cyber programs” and are regularly conducting “politically motivated” attacks. What are they up to exactly? Countries such as China are “reconnoitering and developing access to US critical infrastructure systems, which might be quickly exploited for disruption if an adversary’s intent became hostile.” Back in 2013, Verizon released a report detailing Chinese hackers lurking around inside American industrial control systems—the cyber equivalent to casing a robbery target. In 2014 alone, the FBI investigated a likely Russian hacking campaign against American banking backbone JP Morgan, while two cybersecurity firms blamed Iran for a major campaign against US critical infrastructure like major airliners, medical universities, and energy companies. As the year ended, the US government publicly accused North Korea of a devastating cyberattack against Sony.”
When of Office of National Intelligence produced a report, the first chapter is on cyber threats.
“Risk. Despite ever-improving network defenses, the diverse possibilities for remote hacking intrusions, supply chain operations to insert compromised hardware or software, and malevolent activities by human insiders will hold nearly all ICT systems at risk for years to come. In short, the cyber threat cannot be eliminated; rather, cyber risk must be managed. Moreover, the risk calculus employed by some private sector entities does not adequately account for foreign cyber threats or the systemic interdependencies between different critical infrastructure sectors.
Costs. During 2014, we saw an increase in the scale and scope of reporting on malevolent cyber activity that can be measured by the amount of corporate data stolen or deleted, personally identifiable information (PII) compromised, or remediation costs incurred by US victims. “
The stakes are higher than anyone will admit, most of all the White House. The Office of Personnel Management hack of personnel files now appears to exceed 18 million individuals. “FBI Director James Comey gave the 18 million estimate in a closed-door briefing to Senators in recent weeks, using the OPM’s own internal data, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. Those affected could include people who applied for government jobs, but never actually ended up working for the government.”
Just announced as a possible additional agency falling victim to hacking is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). What is chilling about this probability is all government reports, records and communications are by law to be maintained by NARA., even classified material.
EXCLUSIVE: Signs of OPM Hack Turn Up at Another Federal Agency
The National Archives and Records Administration recently detected unauthorized activity on three desktops indicative of the same hack that extracted sensitive details on millions of current and former federal employees, government officials said Monday. The revelation suggests the breadth of one of the most damaging cyber assaults known is wider than officials have disclosed.
The National Archives’ own intrusion-prevention technology successfully spotted the so-called indicators of compromise during a scan this spring, said a source involved in the investigation, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident. The discovery was made soon after the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team published signs of the wider attack — which targeted the Office of Personnel Management — to look for at agencies, according to NARA.
It is unclear when NARA computers were breached. Suspected Chinese-sponsored cyberspies reportedly had been inside OPM’s networks for a year before the agency discovered what happened in April. Subsequently, the government uncovered a related attack against OPM that mined biographical information on individuals who have filed background investigation forms to access classified secrets.
The National Archives has found no evidence intruders obtained “administrative access,” or took control, of systems, but files were found in places they did not belong, the investigator said.
NARA “systems” and “applications” were not compromised, National Archives spokeswoman Laura Diachenko emphasized to Nextgov, “but we detected IOCs,” indicators of compromise, “on three workstations, which were cleaned and re-imaged,” or reinstalled.
“Other files found seemed to be legitimate,” such as those from a Microsoft website, she said. “We have requested further guidance from US-CERT on how to deal with these” and are still awaiting guidance on how to proceed.
It will take additional forensics assessments to determine whether attackers ever “owned” the National Archives computers, the investigator said.
Diachenko said, “Continued analysis with our monitoring and forensic tools has not detected any activity associated with a hack,” including alerts from the latest version of a governmentwide network-monitoring tool called EINSTEIN 3A.
EINSTEIN, like NARA’s own intrusion-prevention tool, is now configured to detect the tell-tale signs of the OPM attack.
“OPM isn’t the only agency getting probed by this group,” said John Prisco, president of security provider Triumphant, the company that developed the National Archives’ tool. “It could be happening in lots of other agencies.”
Prisco said he learned of the incident at a security industry conference June 9, from an agency official the company has worked with for years.
“They told us that they were really happy because we stopped the OPM attack in their agency,” Prisco said.
The malicious operation tries to open up ports to the Internet, so it can excise information, Prisco said.
“It’s doing exploration work laterally throughout the network and then it’s looking for a way to communicate what it finds back to its server,” he added.
Homeland Security officials on Monday would not confirm or deny the situation at the National Archives. DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee referred to the department’s earlier statement about the OPM hack: “DHS has shared information regarding the potential incident with all federal chief information officers to ensure that all agencies have the knowledge they need to defend against this cybersecurity incident.”
The assault on OPM represents the seventh raid on national security-sensitive or federal personnel information over the past year.
Well-funded hackers penetrated systems at the State Department, the White House, U.S. Postal Service and, previously in March 2014, OPM. Intruders also broke into networks twice at KeyPoint Government Solutions, an OPM background check provider, and once at USIS, which conducted most of OPM’s employee investigations until last summer.
On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the OPM incident that, among other things, will examine the possibility that hackers got into the agency’s systems by using details taken from the contractors.