Dec 14, 2007

Cyber attack on LANL outs personal info

Los Alamos Monitor

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Monitor Assistant Editor

People whose personal information was potentially compromised by a hacking incident at Los
Alamos National Laboratory have begun to receive letters of notice from Tom Harper, LANL’s chief
information officer.

A letter dated Dec. 7, to “Sir or Madam” informs the addressee, “We do not believe that your PII
(personally identifiable information) was the target of the hackers. Nevertheless, our current
analysis indicates that the computers attacked did contain the following items of your PII: social
security number.”

The letters includes information on recommended precautions to protect against identity theft.

A laboratory spokesperson said all laboratory employees were informed on Nov. 9 of a “malicious,
sophisticated hacking event” on a small number of unclassified computers on the laboratory’s
unclassified or ‘Yellow network.”

The incident may be related to a similar attack acknowledged in more detail by Oak Ridge National
Laboratory in an advisory issued last week that said the attack appeared to be “part of a
coordinated attempt to gain access to computer networks at numerous laboratories and other
institutions across the country.”

The advisory said the first Oak Ridge incident occurred on Oct. 29, 2007, and that there was
“reason to believe that data was stolen from a database used for visitors at the laboratory.”

LANL officials said the attack removed a significant amount of data.

“They were able to get behind the firewall,” said Kevin Roark of the lab’s Communications Office.

Roark said it is not the first time that the firewall has been penetrated.

There was an incident about three years ago, also an attack on multiple facilities, which was under
investigation and about which officials were unwilling to speak at the time.

Roark said he did not know what came of the previous incident.

He said the lab is the object of 50,000 cyber-attacks daily, and sometimes 10 times that number.

“The exact nature of the information is currently under computer forensic investigation,” he said in
a prepared statement. “We cannot elaborate on the details of the nature of the attack or the
nature of the data taken at this time because revealing specifics of this event could damage the
current investigation and adversely affect our ability to effectively deal with situations like this in
the future.”

In Sen. Jeff Bingman’s office, spokeswoman Jude McCartin said they had been briefed on the issue,
which had affected a number of labs.

“We would have expected that a certain level of encryption would be in place for this kind of
information,” she said. “They’re going to have to make some upgrades."


Anonymous said...

The US has become like a third world country in the way it identifies its citizens. Using 'confidential' SS numbers to ID people is primitive and just plain stupid. Most of the developed world has long since left this primitive method and begun using better techniques.

It's time to start issuing national ID cards with digital certificates and embedded chips to authenticate our citizens. Do that and this whole SSN/PII stupidity will be done with and the country will be far more secure. Of course, the "666" crowd won't like it, but it is possible to have strong, secure authentication AND protect the rights and privacy of US citizens.

Anonymous said...

why are there no comments on this? is someone being muzzled?

Pinky and The Brain said...

No comments have been rejected on this post.