Feeds

Cybersecurity holes exposed in Los Alamos nuke lab

Network on shaky ground zero

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

The Los Alamos National Laboratory - easily the world's most sensitive and sophisticated research institution - is marred by cybersecurity weaknesses that compromise the way information on its unclassified network is protected.

According to an audit by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the New Mexico-based LANL recently began implementing measures to shore up information security. But vulnerabilities remain on its unclassified network, which contains sensitive information involving controlled nukes, export control, and personal details of lab employees. Physical security was also found to be lacking at the facility, one of only three US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) labs.

"A successful physical or cyber attack on NNSA sites containing nuclear weapons, the material used in nuclear weapons, or information pertaining to the people who design and maintain the US nuclear deterrent could have devastating consequences for this site, its surrounding communities, and the nation's security, the report (PDF) warns. "Because of these risks, NNSA sites need effective physical and cyber security programs."

This isn't the first time security at LANL has been found to be lacking. In 2006, a drug raid on a private residence uncovered classified documents and information that had been improperly removed from the lab by a contract employee. An investigation into the incident later revealed a "serious breakdown in core laboratory physical and cyber security controls" contributed to the breach.

A security evaluation earlier this year by investigators from the Department of Energy concluded there were "significant weaknesses" in LANL's security program.

Last week's GAO report identified several critical areas inside LANL where physical and cyber security were flawed. They included the identifying and authenticating of users, the encryption of sensitive information and the monitoring and auditing of compliance with established security policies. The GAO also faulted policies for granting access to LANL's unclassified network by foreign nationals, some from countries considered "sensitive."

The report issued 52 recommendations for improvement. Among other things, they are aimed at "ensuring that LANL's risk assessment for its unclassified network evaluates all known vulnerabilities and is revised periodically."

The venerable LANL was ground zero for the Manhattan Project and also the birth place for the hydrogen bomb.

"Clearly the threat to cybersecurity is currently our No. 1 concern," LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said. "We've made great strides in the area of cybersecurity at Los Alamos over the past few years. Obviously, this is a journey, not a destination. It's a constant battle." ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.