US Government Employee Hack & the Future of Warfare

Hacking-of-America-NBC-News-620x433.png

A massive hack of the federal government may have compromised personal information belonging to 9 million to 14 million people, far more than was initially believed. Multiple sources on Capitol Hill, within the federal workforce and around Washington have estimated that the final tally of people affected by the hack could easily eclipse the 4 million reported by the Obama administration.

Already, the theft of data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the largest data breach ever at the federal government. With an increase in the scope of the attack, which officials, speaking privately, have traced back to China, the Obama administration's response will face further scrutiny and more questions about the state of the nation’s digital security.
 
The Office of Personnel Management has faced repeated hacking attempt, including an incident last year when Chinese hackers tried to steal tens of thousands of files about US workers who had applied for top-secret security clearance. But a breach of federal data that was announced last month appears to be significantly worse than the federal government originally let on.
Hackers may have stolen personnel files for as many as 14 million people. That number, much larger than the actual federal workforce, suggests that the hack may have exposed the information about additional categories of individuals, such as family members or government contractors.
It’s also more than three times as many people as original reports suggested, according to The Hill and other outlets, citing officials who claim the attack originated in China.
Officials are still working to figure out whether the theft of data from the Office of Personnel Management may also include sensitive information about contract workers and family members of employees who underwent background checks. And it’s not clear whether hackers could use the data they have to identify U.S. spies or other intelligence personnel.
But it is clear that large-scale data theft is a major problem facing the United States. It has happened before and it will happen again.

In 2012, Verizon said that “state-affiliated actors” made up nearly one-fifth of the successful breaches it recorded that year. In 2013, hackers stole data about more than 100,000 people from the Department of Energy’s network. Officials in the United State blame China for years-long hacking attempts against the Veteran Affairs Department that began as early as 2010 and compromised more than 20 million people’s personal information. And even though the Office of Personnel Management had been hacked before, it appears the agency continued to be astonishingly lax about its own security.

From The New York Times:
The agency did not possess an inventory of all the computer servers and devices with access to its networks, and did not require anyone gaining access to information from the outside to use the kind of basic authentication techniques that most Americans use for online banking. It did not regularly scan for vulnerabilities in the system, and found that 11 of the 47 computer systems that were supposed to be certified as safe for use last year were not “operating with a valid authorization.”
Fighting back against hackers at the government level, many experts say, will require agencies to fight back in real-time. “Like banks and technology companies, government agencies must move to a model that assumes hackers will always get in,” Michael A. Riley wrote for Bloomberg last week. “They’ll need to buy cutting-edge technologies that can detect intruders inside networks and eject them quickly, before the data is gone.”
Officials have warned that in addition to ignoring technical vulnerabilities, the United States hasn’t been forceful enough about deterring hackers. Several experts say the U.S. needs to be more aggressive about publicly reporting the scope of hacking attempts as well as identifying and punishing those who steal government data. The authors of a 2013 report by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property argued that laws should be rewritten to give the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and law enforcement agencies the authority to use “threat-based deterrence systems that operate at network speed” to fight back against unauthorized intrusions into national security and critical infrastructure networks.
“These conditions cannot be allowed to fester,” the authors of the report wrote. “China has taken aggressive private and public actions that are inflicting major damage to the American economy and national security. Robust and swift action must be taken by the U.S. government.”
Such deterrence systems could mean targeting hackers with some of their own weapons: government-sanctioned malware or ransomware, software that locks down a computer without a user’s consent—a tactic that the U.S. government has already explored. As The Intercept reported last year, top-secret files in the trove of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency was “dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale,” including infecting millions of computers across the globe with malware.

The concern is that the government will be able to justify its own covert hacking infrastructure by focusing on the threat of data theft from foreign governments—only to then use malware implants as mass surveillance tools against U.S. citizens.

The military, meanwhile, is beginning to explore what operational readiness and a “traditional war-fighting perspective” might look like when it’s adapted for a post-Cold War digital world. “There are more questions than answers,” wrote the authors of a 2013 Air Force Research Institute report about deterrence in the Internet age. “Organizing to fight through cyber attacks not only prepares the United States to operate under duress, but sends a strong deterrence message to potential adversaries.”
What remains to be seen is the extent to which old military models can even be useful in a new environment. The authors of the Air Force report argue that “human nature has not changed, making fear, honor, and interest no less drivers of human action today than they were in the time of Thucydides.” But the players in an emerging global power struggle that will largely take place online are all new, and they’re using tools that the U.S. government still doesn’t seem to understand. 

The Hill:  http://bit.ly/1I7qDWJ
DefenseOne:  http://bit.ly/1QZMdkC

« Enforcing Magna Carta in the Age of Cyberwarfare
Russian Hackers Posed as ISIS to Hack French TV Channel »

Directory of Suppliers

eBook: Practical Guide to Security in the AWS Cloud

eBook: Practical Guide to Security in the AWS Cloud

AWS Marketplace would like to present you with a digital copy of the new book, Practical Guide to Security in the AWS Cloud, by the SANS Institute.

Clayden Law

Clayden Law

Clayden Law are experts in information technology, data privacy and cybersecurity law.

CSI Consulting Services

CSI Consulting Services

Get Advice From The Experts: * Training * Penetration Testing * Data Governance * GDPR Compliance. Connecting you to the best in the business.

ZenGRC

ZenGRC

ZenGRC - the first, easy-to-use, enterprise-grade information security solution for compliance and risk management - offers businesses efficient control tracking, testing, and enforcement.

Practice Labs

Practice Labs

Practice Labs is an IT competency hub, where live-lab environments give access to real equipment for hands-on practice of essential cybersecurity skills.

CYRIN

CYRIN

CYRIN® Cyber Range. Real Tools, Real Attacks, Real Scenarios. See why leading educational institutions and companies in the U.S. have begun to adopt the CYRIN® system.

DigitalStakeout

DigitalStakeout

A simple and cost-effective solution to monitor, investigate and analyze data from the web, social media and cyber sources to identify threats and make better security decisions.

Cyber Security Service Supplier Directory

Cyber Security Service Supplier Directory

Free Access: Cyber Security Service Supplier Directory listing 5,000+ specialist service providers.

Authentic8

Authentic8

Authentic8 transforms how organizations secure and control the use of the web with Silo, its patented cloud browser.

MIRACL

MIRACL

MIRACL provides the world’s only single step Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) which can replace passwords on 100% of mobiles, desktops or even Smart TVs.

Nextgov

Nextgov

Nextgov is an information resource for federal technology decision makers. Topic areas include cybersecurity.

Paessler

Paessler

Paessler is a leading worldwide provider of network monitoring software.

BSIMM

BSIMM

The Building Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM) is a study of existing software security initiatives.

MediaPro

MediaPro

MediaPro is a learning services company that specializes in the areas of information security, data privacy, compliance, and custom online courseware.

Center for Identity - University of Texas at Austin

Center for Identity - University of Texas at Austin

The mission of the Center is to deliver the highest-quality discoveries, applications, education, and outreach for excellence in identity management, privacy, and security.

CyberTrap

CyberTrap

CyberTrap is an advanced highly-interactive deception technology allowing real-time analysis and control of security breaches.

OUTCERT

OUTCERT

OUTCERT is a technology education platform. The site simplifies the search for professional certifications in over 100 technology related areas including Cyber Security.

DupZapper

DupZapper

DupZapper provides a simple way of detecting online fraud brought by fake and multiple accounts using device identification and machine learning algorithms.