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Archive for August, 2010

UPDATE: Deputy Secretary of Defense Publishes Paper to Confirm 2008 Cyber Breach

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 | 4:52 PM 4 comments

As Cybersecurity News reported earlier this afternoon, William J. Lynn III, US Deputy Secretary of Defense, made plans to publish a paper to confirm the 2008 cyber breach on the US defense networks.

Calling the incident “a significant compromise of its classified military computer networks,” following is Lynn’s paper obtained by Cybersecurity News from the Council on Foreign Relation’s Foreign Affairs magazine:

Defending a New Domain The Pentagon’s Cyberstrategy

By William J. Lynn III

September/October 2010

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense suffered a significant compromise of its classified military computer networks. It began when an infected flash drive was inserted into a U.S. military laptop at a base in the Middle East. The flash drive’s malicious computer code, placed there by a foreign intelligence agency, uploaded itself onto a network run by the U.S. Central Command. That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control. 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…
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Defending the Cyber World: News from the Pentagon and Beyond

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 | 1:00 PM 4 comments

A story in the Washington Post this morning reports that “The most significant breach of US military computers was caused by a flash drive inserted into a US military laptop on a post in the Middle East in 2008.”

According to the article, William J. Lynn III, US Deputy Secretary of Defense, will publish an article later today to announce that malicious code was uploaded onto US Central Command networks back in 2008, potentially leaving vulnerabilities in the Defense networks’ security.

Of the incident, Lynn went on to mention, “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…. [The] Pentagon has begun to recognize its vulnerability and is making a case for how you’ve got to deal with it.”
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Twitter and the Tale of the Two Koreas

Thursday, August 19, 2010 | 11:08 AM Leave a comment

It’s been nearly a week since North Korea purportedly launched its Twitter account “@uriminzok,” which, despite being viewed as another tool for propaganda, literally means “our people” in the native tongue.

On Monday afternoon the uriminzok page had 2,445 Twitter followers… a number that has nearly quadrupled since then, as the account has now racked in just under 9,000 followers.

Who won’t be included on that list?  South Korean citizens.

According to an article in BusinessWeek, “South Korea has decided to ask domestic Internet service providers to block South Korean citizens’ access to a North Korean Twitter Inc. account because it breaches the South’s national security laws.” Read more…

Cyber Tensions on the Rise in Asia

Monday, August 16, 2010 | 3:58 PM Leave a comment

As Korea commemorated Liberation Day yesterday, marking the anniversary of freedom from Japan, The Korea Times reported that online tensions were high between the two nations.

Calling it a “sensitive day” for the two countries, The Times noted that both Japan and Korea remained on “high alert” in the cyber realm, as thoughts of retaliation were in plain sight.

According to the article, “Last March, the Korean netizens mounted an attack on Japan’s largest Internet site, 2ch (www.2ch.net).  In return, Japanese Internet warriors assaulted the Web site of the South Korea’s Presidential Office.”

But, one day later, as no reports have surfaced regarding a suspected attack, all seems calm on the cyber front…

…That is, “calm” enough for North Korea to launch a Twitter page, creating a stir in the tech world today.

As Time Magazine put it in headline form: “Welcome to Twitter, North Korea.
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Sen. Lieberman and More Overkill for the ‘Kill Switch’

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | 11:35 AM Leave a comment

It’s been a fairly quiet week for Washington, as Monday kicked off the start to a five-week congressional recess.

But not wasting any time on the cybersecurity front, Hartford Business Journal reports that Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on Monday addressed an audience of New England business leaders to warn of potential cyberterrorism and cyber crime.

“This is one of the things that keeps me up at night,” Lieberman said.

According to the Journal, the senator went on to add that, while about $1 trillion is lost each year to cyber crime, both Congress and Lieberman’s committee, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, are “working on requirements for software developers, giving the president emergency powers over the Internet in the case of an attack, and taking greater control over the federal government’s cybersecurity advisors.”

Meanwhile, Time Magazine this morning published an article on the cyber catchphrase that Sen. Lieberman and his cohorts have been working hard to silence.  That is, the Internet “kill switch.”
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Senate Committee Approves Cyber Legislation

Thursday, August 5, 2010 | 3:15 PM 1 comment

From the National Journal’s Congress Daily:

A Senate committee today approved legislation that gives the Energy secretary power to issue emergency orders for imminent cybersecurity threats to the electric grid.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee was initially considering a similar measure that passed the House in June. Sponsored by Global Warming Chairman Edward Markey, that bill grants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — not the Energy secretary — the authority to issue emergency orders to protect the power grid if the president declares an imminent cybersecurity threat. The Senate’s measure gives authority to FERC for risks that are not as imminent.

The point behind designating power to a single person rather than an agency like FERC is to help ensure a more rapid response.

The measure approved today is actually the cybersecurity title from a sweeping energy bill the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved last year. The panel swapped the House language for the Senate’s language with hopes it would have a better chance of passing the upper chamber.

“Both the House and the Senate developed thoughtful, and needed, cyber bills which address many of the same issues,” said Bill Wicker, spokesman for Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman. “We think that the Senate’s version is more likely to move more quickly on this side of the Capitol. And that is our main objective — to have Congress act quickly on this critically important issue.”

Moderate members from both parties doubt though that the Senate has the political will to pass such a bill.

“I don’t see many things that can get bipartisan support yet this year,” Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said today.

While noting that cybersecurity is a serious issue that deserves consideration, Nelson said that “what seems to be driving most of the policy decisions over here is the outcome of this next election.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., predicted no big measures will pass before November, noting that cybersecurity is a national security issue and thus qualifies.

The cybersecurity measure was one of 17 bills the energy committee approved today without a single Republican present. The GOP members wanted the panel to postpone the markup until after the August recess. Noting the dwindling legislative calendar, the majority decided to move forward now, Wicker said.

While taking issue with the procedural side of the markup and some of the other energy bills that passed today, Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski does not have any objections to the cybersecurity measure, her spokesman said.

Of the 17 bills approved today, six deal with energy and 11 with public lands. The energy bills include those that incentivize electric vehicle technology and solar energy, and one that creates a Supply Star program within the Energy Department. The program would incentivize the use of efficient supply chains by companies.

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The Vulnerabilities of the Power Grid and the Private Sector

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 | 4:44 PM 1 comment

The Wall Street Journal this morning outlined a recent report released by the Department of Energy to warn that the US power grid is vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Conducted by the DOE’s Idaho National Lab, the report “reinforces concerns that intelligence officials have raised in recent years about growing surveillance of the electric grid by Chinese and Russian cyber-spies,” WSJ noted.

But the announcement comes as old news to most in the cyber world, including former US-CERT director Mischel Kwon, who acknowledged, “We have so many known vulnerabilities that have not been patched.”  Kwon, now a vice president for RSA, went on to include, “The report offers common sense and best-practice recommendations that have been available for years.”

In other old news making headlines today: “There still is a long way to go before Congress sends Barack Obama legislation he can sign.”  That’s according to an article in The Economist which takes a closer look at current cybersecurity issues, legislation and delays on Capitol Hill.
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Preventing a Cyber Attack: The $100 Million Question

Monday, August 2, 2010 | 3:20 PM Leave a comment

What can two years and $100 million buy you these days?  The ability to win a cyber war.

…Or so says cyber expert Charlie Miller, who, according to the AFP, announced his security findings on Saturday at the Defcon hackers’ convention in Las Vegas.

Speaking on the topic of potential cyber attack scenarios, Miller, a former NSA researcher, said that with 100 million dollars and two years’ time, it would be “easy” to craft a cyber invasion to bring down US infrastructure and the nation’s defenses.

“I already knew it was easy, but now I know in detail how easy it would be,” said Miller.  “We are certainly very vulnerable.”
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