Major cyber breach at the Department of Energy?

posted at 11:31 am on February 4, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

When outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta defended the Pentagon’s newly-approved plan to drastically expand their cyber security force, he was not messing around. “Unidentified” foreign entities certainly have been ramping up the scale of their cyber attacks of late, and I don’t just mean at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The WFB reports that computer networks at the DOE were target by what looks like sophisticated hackers in a major incident two weeks ago, and that the personal information of several hundred employees was compromised:

Energy Department officials, along with FBI agents, are investigating the attack on servers at the Washington headquarters. They believe the sophisticated penetration attack was not limited to stealing personal information. There are indications the attackers had other motives, possibly including plans to gain future access to classified and other sensitive information. …

The source or identity of the cyber attacker is not known, according to U.S. officials and outside security analysts. However, Chinese hackers are likely suspects because the department is known to be a major target of China for both secrets and technology. Also, the relative sophistication of the cyber attack is an indication of nation-state involvement.

Evidently, no classified information was compromised in this particular attack, but something tells me the infiltrators weren’t looking to merely copy our methods on that oh-so-successful green energy loan guarantee program:

The department’s National Nuclear Security Administration is in charge of developing and maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons and related infrastructure. …

The department “is on the cutting edge of some of the most sophisticated military and intelligence technology the country owns and it is being treated frivolously by the Department of Energy and its political masters,” McCallum said.

McCallum said the Chinese have been targeting DoE for a long time and now the Iranians are beginning to try and steal DoE secrets.

Major U.S. companies, media outlets, and various government departments and agencies — these types of attacks have only been gaining in momentum in recent years on the burgeoning cyber-warfare frontier, and it sounds like the administration is at least starting to dabble in ways to send stronger signals to the Chinese:

Although the administration hasn’t yet decided what steps it may take, actions could include threats to cancel certain visas or put major purchases of Chinese goods through national security reviews.

“The U.S. government has started to look seriously at more assertive measures and begun to engage the Chinese on senior levels,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They realize that this is a major problem in the bilateral relationship that threatens to destabilize U.S. relations with China.”

To date, extensive discussions between Chinese officials and top U.S. leaders — including President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta — have had little impact on what government and cybersecurity experts say is escalating and technologically evolving espionage. The Chinese deny such espionage efforts.


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What, they stole the new algae pie recipe?

Archivarix on February 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM

I believe nothing NOTHING that comes from this government.

Mr. Arrogant on February 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM

and that the personal information of several hundred employees was compromised:
===============

Terrific,are they now targets,ugh!

canopfor on February 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Heh. So about those lights going out at the Superbowl….

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Wake up, people. There will be more and more cyber attacks that are unsubstantiated to provide the need for Obama to flip the internet kill switch.

Of course I’m paranoid, right? It’s just my imagination that the government is buying so many bullets they are draining supply. And of course it’s just my imagination that my spouse’s food supply warehouse has government entities coming in unannounced and buying entire truckloads of staples so that the grocery shelves are empty for a couple of days. All my imagination. Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

JustTruth101 on February 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Evidently, no classified information was compromised in this particular attack, but something tells me the infiltrators weren’t looking to merely copy our methods on that oh-so-successful green energy loan guarantee program:
===============================

Speaking of the Green Energy Debackle:

Wash. Free Beacon ‏@FreeBeacon

RT @lachlan: Solyndra HQ sold for $90 million. Original construction cost: $300 million. http://bit.ly/Wpz8sK
=====================================================

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2013/02/01/solyndra-deal-closes-capping-fremont.html

canopfor on February 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Evidently, no classified information was compromised in this particular attack

If it was, I would hope that it wouldn’t be a topic here at HA. This is the kind of stuff you do damage assessment about in a less transparent environment than open source.

Happy Nomad on February 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Heh. So about those lights going out at the Superbowl….

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 11:36 AM

That wasn’t the Chinese. It was one too many blenders making hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s

Happy Nomad on February 4, 2013 at 11:43 AM

Intentional. We want this. Crisis means opportunity. Opportunity is greater control of internet.

rrpjr on February 4, 2013 at 11:49 AM

eh. So about those lights going out at the Superbowl….

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 11:36 AM

That thought crossed my mind, too…

ITguy on February 4, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Well at least the commie hate America unAmerican Democrat Party made the ones of China break in this time, prior it was a Bill/Bill oper records operation out the back gate of Lost Alamos Lab in New Mexico, gone missing hard drives, master CD’s, lap tops out the back gate to Red Commie ones of China.

Bill Clinton
Bill Richardson

co-enabler the commies who ran Lost Alamos Lab back the Commie California University

Elect Commies they do commie things.

Expect no less.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on February 4, 2013 at 11:52 AM

eh. So about those lights going out at the Superbowl….

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Actually it was Beyonce’s hair dryer.

JustTruth101 on February 4, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Erika always hating on the Chinese, meanwhile my VPN still works.

DarkCurrent on February 4, 2013 at 12:02 PM

O will continue to do nothing on foreign cybersecurity threats and/or as little as possible. He is angling for cracking down regular Americans access and rights on the internet!

Didn’t I read last week that in the latest cybersecurity bill O gets to have the kill switch just like Nappy getting the authority to decide at the end of the day whether there is enough border security to go forward with Immigration/Amnesty Bill?

CoffeeLover on February 4, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Can we store some doctored natural gas pipeline control programs on DOE computers for them to steal like we did with the Russians in the 80′s? What a shame if they came not to trust the validity of what they could steal.

KW64 on February 4, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Obama responds to Chinese hacks of Department of Energy by:

…offering to pay for their global warming “taxes?”
…offering to subsidize Solyndra “technology?” (oh wait, already sold it too them at tax payers loss)
…having Hillary say “What does it matter!!!”

DANEgerus on February 4, 2013 at 12:25 PM

the administration is at least starting to dabble in ways to send stronger signals to the Chinese

…they are going to send them pictures of JugEars shooting skeet!

KOOLAID2 on February 4, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Sorta reminds me of that commercial.

They can’t put anything on the internet that’s not true.

Where did you read that?

On the internet.

Definitely not the Chinese, they would never do that.

D-fusit on February 4, 2013 at 12:32 PM

So, we have a branch of our armed forces (USAF Cyber Command) that is dedicated to offensive and defensive operations within the internet and computer networks. In essence, our doctrine now states that this is yet another battlefield for us to win or lose in, just like in the air, water, or land. So, why is it not considered an act of war when we get cyber attacked by a nation state? I know, people aren’t dying, etc, but real damage is being done and lives can definitely be lost as a result.

Chuckie on February 4, 2013 at 12:37 PM

I donno why even being connected to a network where outsiders can get into it is beyond me.

watertown on February 4, 2013 at 1:26 PM

I donno why even being connected to a network where outsiders can get into it is beyond me.

watertown on February 4, 2013 at 1:26 PM

I was thinking the same way.

But then I remembered this

Nethicus on February 4, 2013 at 1:42 PM

There are a lot of our infrastructure control technologies that need to go absolutely off-line, and lax physical security protocols are shockingly prevalent as well, especially considering the time and money thrown at the ever-burgeoning and increasingly out-of-control monstrosity that I like to call Bush’s Folly (otherwise known as the DHS.)

hillbillyjim on February 4, 2013 at 2:30 PM