Cybersecurity

Russia reports hack on its federal agencies

Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): a fishing hook with keys on a computer circuit.

The Russian government has been the victim of a successful spear-phishing attack, according to the country's principal security agency, the Federal Security Service.

FSB, which is the main successor agency to the KGB, said on July 30 that it has found evidence of malware spreading into the networks of 20 organizations linked to the government, including critical infrastructure, public authorities, military contractors, and scientific and military institutions.

It is working with other Russian ministries and agencies to identify all the malware's victims, localize the threat and minimize its consequences.

Officials said such a widely spread viral attack suggests a professionally planned and executed operation, although they did not point fingers at suspected attackers. They added that the style in which the malware was written, the file names and the way the attack was deployed all point to "the high-profile cyber-espionage operations" that have been used elsewhere.

According to FSB's statement, targeted employees receive an email message with an attachment. Clicking on the attachment unleashes the virus, which can intercept network traffic, turn on listening capabilities and web cameras to record audio and video, and log keystrokes.

FSB also said sets of software were made for each victim based on the targeted PC's unique characteristics.

The attack is reminiscent of the phishing hacks that target U.S. federal agencies and corporations every day. Furthermore, the report comes in the wake of high-profile hacks that have rocked the U.S. presidential election campaign in recent weeks. Democratic Party networks, including some used by Hillary Clinton's campaign organization, were compromised. Investigators have cited evidence that suggests those attacks were backed by the Russian government.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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