Tag Archives: Chinese hackers

Hackers Hit OPM Again!

OPM LogoUncle Sam’s Office of Personnel Management has suffered a major data breach.  The personnel records of as many as 4 million current and former federal employees may have been compromised.

According to a press release from the OPM the agency identified a cyber security incident involving personally identifiable information (PII) of federal employees. OPM says it is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team or CERT and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to determine the full impact to Federal personnel. The OPM manages security clearances and employee records for every federal agency.

The federal government is the nation’s largest employer with over  4.3 million people on the payroll. According to the OPM in 2012 the federal government employed a total of 332,850 African-Americans.

This is the second data breach for the OPM. The agency admitted to a previous breach in March of 2014.  The OPM claims it has implemented improved security since that breach and this new breach came before those new standards put in place. The previous breach has been blamed on Chinese hackers and according to the Washington Post, this attack is also believed to have originated in China.

In response China said today that allegations that it is involved in breaking into U.S. government computers are irresponsible.

During a regular news briefing Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Beijing hopes the U.S. would be “less suspicious and stop making any unverified allegations, but show more trust and participate more in cooperation.”

Because this is OPM’s second breach within a year many experts and elected officials have legitimate questions about security practices within the agency. U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) said, “Today’s reported breach is part of a troubling pattern by this agency in failing to secure the personal data of federal employees, the second major breach in a year. Cyberattacks present a critical threat to our national security and our economy. We cannot afford to keep dragging our feet in addressing the escalating threats posed by hackers out to steal individuals’ personal information.”

This intrusion was discovered by an internal network monitoring systems. It is still unclear whether the attackers exploited any residual effects from the earlier attack. There is the potential that hackers have installed a back door in OPM’s computer systems allowing them to enter at will and take what they wish. A major concern because of this data breach is that America’s intelligence operatives may be exposed. A topic few in the government are speaking about.

OPM’s chief information officer told The Washington Post.“OPM has undertaken an aggressive effort to update our cyber security posture, adding numerous tools and capabilities to our networks. As a result of adding these tools, we were able to detect this intrusion into our networks.”

Because of the incident, OPM is sending notifications to approximately 4 million past and current federal employees whose PII may have been compromised.  OPM stated that the investigation is on-going and additional PII data loss could be discovered. OPM will conduct additional notifications as necessary. OPM is offering a package of identity protection services including credit report access, credit monitoring and identify theft insurance and recovery services to potentially affected individuals through CSID, a company that specializes in these services.

 

 

 

Obama; Foreign Hackers Face Sanctions

Obama-cybersecurity-e1421228350182President Obama is weilding yet another sword in his fight against foreign hackers and cyber attacks. Using his presidential powers the president has issued an Executive Order authorizing the federal government to levy sanctions against suspected hackers.

The Executive Order authorizes the Secretary of Treasury to freeze assets of those who engage in “malicious cyber-enabled activity” anywhere in the world if that cyber activity endangers the national security, foreign policy or economic stability of America.

The Executive Order does not currently target anyone for cyber-related sanctions, but in a telephone conference administration officials said they felt it was important to have the framework in place.

President Obama acted after several high-profile cyber-attacks against Target, J.P. Morgan Chase and entertainment giant Sony. The Sony hack created worldwide headlines because it was believed to have been the work of North Korea. The nation was extremely angry after the movie studio released a comedic movie about the assassination of its leader.

The hacking of  Sony Entertainment led to the first U.S. government imposed sanctions related to a cyber attack. Prior to that event White House officials never had the authority to punish individuals based on the malicious cyber activity only the region or country responsible.

“What we’re trying to do is enable us to have a new way of both deterring [action] and imposing new costs against cyber actors wherever they may be,” said Michael Daniel, a special assistant to the President and cyber-security coordinator.

White House officials were clear to point out that the new sanctions are not meant to replace  existing weapons the Obama administration has in place to confront cyber threats. Instead this order is intended to “fill in the gaps.” The order authorizes government officials to target businesses that illegally use data, trade secrets or information stolen or obtained to gain an unfair edge, and individuals and companies that give or attempt to give serious hackers a financial boost.

But professional hackers are not yet convinced of President Obama’s and the government’s promise to protect security researchers. Known as  ‘White Hat’ hackers these professional hackers expressed their concern that “cyber” sanctions announced today by the US administration could punish those trying to protect the country. They’re also doubtful of the need to call it a “national emergency” as a result of digital attacks on the nation.

The White House simply has not gained the confidence of security professionals and human rights advocates. Security researchers are trying to expose vulnerabilities in the nation’s computer networks so they can be repaired or patched. These White Hat hackers could be punished as a result of the national emergency powers without due process.

To the contrary President Obama said the powers would not be used to “target the legitimate research community or professionals who help companies improve their cyber security. And unlike some other countries, we will never try to silence free expression online or curb Internet freedom.”

“This executive order is another salvo on President Obama’s war on hackers,” said Robert Graham of Errata Security. Graham has previously criticised the US government’s attempts to counter online crime. He claims the proposed cyber laws could be used against legitimate hackers attempting to secure the Internet.

“On one hand, it’s reasonable. Chinese hackers steal trade secrets, and this makes it easier to retaliate. The recent China attack against GitHub is an excellent example of something that deserves a response from the U.S. government,” he added.

“On the other hand, it allows the suspension of due process against hacking suspects. I write tools likemasscan’, which I know the Chinese use. This order enables the government to arbitrarily seize all my assets.

Graham labeled the Executive order as “broad and unneeded.” He went on to say, “The President already has the power to deal directly with the threat of Chinese hackers, and should do so.”

Breaking It Down

Black people should be very proud of President Obama. Not only is he the first black president but he is also the first president to have to deal with the issue of cyber security as a national security issue. Every president has a legacy and cyber security is quickly shaping up to be a big part of his. The fact that we, as a nation, are in deep, dangerous and unchartered cyber waters means that our leader must take action and he has. President Obama has taken action again and again to fight this cyber war. And the fact that he has used his executive power is simply an indicator of two things. First we must address this urgent issue now! Cyber espionage, both economic and military is rampant. Strong action is needed. The threat to the economy is extreme and yes we are vulnerable. Second, we are stuck with a new Republican controlled “do nothing” Congress. They are dragging their feet confirming a new attorney general and seem wary and afraid of doing anything to make a black man look like he’s acting in the best interest of the nation.

ALERT! Hospital Network Hacked ALERT!

CHS-logo

Community Health Systems, a for profit hospital network operating hospitals across the nation announced today that hackers recently broke into its computers and stole data on 4.5 million patients.

Hackers broke into the company’s network and gained access to patient names, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, birthdays and telephone numbers.

Patients who received treatment from any of the company’s hospitals or were referred to the hospital by their doctor in the last five years is affected by this breach.

Data breaches of this size leave the former and current patients at risk of identity fraud. With the stolen data criminals can open bank accounts and credit cards or take out loans in the victims name and potentially destroy the victims personal credit history.

Community Health  Systems operates hospitals in 28 states with most of their facilities located in  Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

In response to the breach Community Health Systems (CYH) has enlisted the help of cybersecurity experts Mandiant to investigate the hack. Mandiant experts determined the hackers were in China and used highly sophisticated malware to launch the attacks in April and June this year.

FBI representatives said that the agency is working closely with the hospital network and “committing significant resources and efforts to target, disrupt, dismantle and arrest the perpetrators.”

For more information please visit

Hospital network hacked, 4.5 million records stolen

Community Health says data stolen in cyber attack from China

Community Health Systems Data Breach Affects 4.5M Patients