Feeds

US State department rooted by 0-day Word attack

An accident waiting to happen

High performance access to file storage

A virus attack aimed at US State Department computers last May penetrated government networks after a worker in Asia opened a contaminated email.

The malware inside exploited an unpatched Microsoft Word vulnerability to spread. Some weeks later government investigators discovered multiple instances of infection, informed Microsoft, and cut off the State Department's internet connections throughout eastern Asia.

The shut-off left US government offices in the region without net access in the tense weeks prior to missile tests by North Korea. The State Department brought the infection under control in early July. Microsoft issued a patch to protect against the attack on August 8, around ten weeks after the original attack.

The contaminated email at the centre of the attack included a Microsoft Word document with material from a congressional speech about Asian diplomacy. This concealed code that used a vulnerability in Word to commandeer Windows PCs and open a back door to unknown hackers. The attack was reportedly detected quickly and kept under control during an investigation. But when security experts realised that the compromise had spread deeper, resulting in the siphoning off of some data, State Department security experts pulled the plug on east Asian offices.

Details of the attack emerged this week before a cybersecurity hearing before the House of Congress's Homeland Security subcommittee. Donald Reid, a senior security coordinator for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, said that a "limited amount" of US government data was obtained by unnamed hackers as a result of the attack, AP reports. Reid is among security experts due to testify on the effect and response to the attack later on Thursday.

US government representatives are refusing to be drawn on the likely identity and motive of attackers. But external security experts speculate that the sophistication of the attack suggests foreign government might have been involved. Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, said the attack was an accident waiting to happen. It was only a matter of time before "Congress would wake up and discover that the federal government had been deeply and broadly penetrated by cyber attackers from other countries," he said.

Paller added that it's been apparent for sometime that US government cybersecurity defences are inadequate. "Much of the money they have spent on FISMA [security audit] reports has been wasted; and should have been spent on actual security." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.