David Kirkpatrick

August 27, 2010

US military hacked in 2008

Hacked by a compromised USB thumb drive. Just goes to show you can worry all day about technical threats and software backdoors and plain old network hacking, but all those assets out in the wild — people’s heads with sensitive passwords, unattended laptops, USB drives, et al. — can be hard to lock down and are usually the easiest way into a network.

From the link:

It was a USB drive loaded with malware.

That’s how U.S. defense networks were compromised in 2008, according to U.S Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who today offered the first official confirmation of a data breach that led to restrictions on the use of removable USB drives in the military.

In an article written for Foreign Affairs magazine, Lynn said the breach occurred when a single USB drive containing malicious code was inserted into a laptop computer at a U.S. base in the Middle East. The malware, placed on the drive by a foreign intelligence agency, was uploaded to a network run by the U.S. Central Command.

The malware then spread — undetected — on both classified and unclassified systems, essentially establishing a “digital beachhead” from which data could be transferred to servers outside the U.S, “It was a network administrator’s worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary,” Lynn wrote.

Here’s additional coverage of this story.

Update 8/30/10: And even more coverage. Looks like the actual threat was very low-level and involved the W32.SillyFDC worm.

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