Congress

Congress wants answers on Juniper breach

Shutterstock image:  Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Congress wants answers from federal agencies on how a potentially dire breach to Juniper Networks' firewalls could be affecting federal networks.

The bipartisan leadership of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has sent letters to the heads of major agencies asking them to produce any evidence that their agencies used the compromised Juniper products. Lawmakers also want to know how agencies discovered any Juniper-related vulnerabilities on their networks; what remedial steps the agencies took, including applying the software patch issued by Juniper; and what version of the company's operating system the agencies were using.

Juniper, whose firewalls are used extensively in the public and private sectors, announced in December 2015 that it had discovered unauthorized code in its operating system that could allow a "knowledgeable attacker" to gain administrative access to its firewalls and decrypt virtual private network connections.

CNN reported a day later that federal officials feared the Juniper backdoor had given foreign spies access to the encrypted communications of the U.S. government and companies for the past three years. A spokesperson at the Department of Homeland Security has said the investigation is ongoing.

Five days after Juniper reported the vulnerabilities, the Defense Department, through the Defense Security Service, warned contractors that one of the vulnerabilities could allow remote administrative access to a device via the Secure Shell or Telnet protocol.

A Juniper spokesperson recently declined to provide FCW with a list of the firm's federal clients. Now lawmakers want their own list.

DOD is among Juniper's big federal customers; dozens of Juniper products are on the Defense Information Systems Agency's Unified Capabilities Approved Products List.

Lawmakers want a response from agency leaders by Feb. 4.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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