Both the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Energy Department – the agencies responsible for safeguarding the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons – had their networks targeted by Russian-ticked hackers looking to compromise the U.S. nuclear arsenal with cyber attacks.
This is in addition to a significant data breach that impacted technology giant Microsoft, with Reuters reporting that the company was breached, and its products being utilised by cyber criminals looking to breach organisations and government institutions.
Spokesperson for the Department of Energy, Shaylyn Hynes has said that the cyber attacks did not impact “mission-essential national security functions,” and that “at this point, the investigation has found that the malware has been isolated to business networks only.”
Hynes continued to explain that “when DOE (Department of Energy) identified vulnerable software, immediate action was taken to mitigate risk, and all software identified as being vulnerable to this attack was disconnected from the DOE network.”
The Federal government has issued a number of warnings for individuals and organisations that a potential wave of cyber attacks was incoming. Yesterday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a statement saying that hackers represented a “grave risk” to local, state and even federal government agencies, the private sector and operators of critical infrastructure.
CISA says that these hackers display a high level of “sophistication and complex tradecraft,” and could be tied to the Russian-tied group of hackers that attempted to target the U.S. nuclear arsenal with a range of cyber attacks.
The cyber security agency continued to explain that “this is a patient, well-resourced, and focussed adversary that has sustained long duration activity on victim networks.”
In addition to this, according to a report from Bloomberg, “two people familiar with the broader government investigation into the attack said three states were breached, though they wouldn’t identify the states. A third person familiar with the probe confirmed that states were hacked, but didn’t provide a number.”
That same report says that “the hackers are believed to have gained access to networks by installing malicious code in a widely used software program from SolarWinds Corp., whose customers include government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, according to the company and cybersecurity experts.”
An unnamed source in that report says that the Department of Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce and State Departments were all breached as a result of the hacking of SolarWinds.
Sitting president Donald Trump is yet to address the reports of Russian-tied hackers targeting the U.S. nuclear arsenal with cyber attacks, however, president-elect Joe Biden has confirmed “what appears to be a massive cybersecurity breach affecting potentially thousands of victims, including U.S. companies and federal government entities.”
President-elect Joe Biden added that “I want to be clear: my administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government — and we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office,” while offering sanctions if Russia is indeed involved with the hacks.
Biden made a pledge to impose “substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks.”