It looks as though the U.S. Government just can’t catch a break when it comes to cybersecurity issues. If it isn’t China that’s breaching the Office of Personal Management (OPM), accessing the personnel files of 21.5 million people, then the U.S. has to keep an eye for hackers originating from Russia.
The latter is pegged as the source for the recent cyberattack on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff email system. If there’s any silver lining to today’s news, it’s that the email system contained “unclassified” information. The cyberattack, which occurred on July 25, affected around 4,000 military personnel that work for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The email system has been offline since the breach was first detected, but is expected to come back online by Friday of this week.
NBC News is reporting that the "sophisticated cyber intrusion” relied on an “automated system that rapidly gathered massive amounts of data and within a minute distributed all the information to thousands of accounts on the Internet” and that Russian hackers staged their attack through “encrypted accounts on social media.”
Government officials familiar with the breach added that "It was clearly the work of a state actor.” At this time, it is unclear whether hackers operating within Russia took it upon themselves to attack the unclassified email system or if the Russian government had a part in putting its fingers in the Pentagon’s back pocket.
We should stress that the Joint Staff classified email system was unaffected by this breach, but that should still be little comfort for top government officials as they try to grapple with mounting pressure to beef up defenses against increasingly sophisticated global hackers.