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US mega-hack: White House orders govt IT to do what it should have done in the first place

No, you're not reading The Onion

In response to this week's data breach at the US Office of Personnel Management, the White House has ordered federal agencies to immediately deploy state-of-the-art anti-hacker defenses – things like installing security patches, and not giving everyone the admin password.

This groundbreaking cyber-edict comes after dossiers packed with highly sensitive personal information on American intelligence and military staffers were reportedly stolen from a government database.

In a statement today, officials at the White House's Office of Management and Budget said federal agency sysadmins have been told to take steps including:

  1. Install software patches for critical vulnerabilities "without delay."
  2. Use antivirus and check log files for "indicators" of malware infection or intrusion.
  3. Start using two-factor authentication.
  4. Slash the number of people with administrator-level access and limit what they can do and for how long per-login-session, and "ensure that privileged user activities are logged and that such logs are reviewed regularly."

"Recent events underscore the need to accelerate the administration’s cyber strategy and confront aggressive, persistent malicious actors that continue to target our nation’s cyber infrastructure," the White House officials added.

It emerged on Friday that hackers with close ties to China are believed to have obtained extensive background information on CIA agents, NSA spies, military special ops, and other government employees who had applied for national security clearances.

It is feared that records on every federal employee were also swiped in the attack, which was launched a year ago against servers run by the OPM. That agency was found wanting in an audit of its network security in November 2014.

Whoever infiltrated the OPM data center, they exploited a zero-day vulnerability, the FBI claims. If the White House's top tips on cyber-security really are news to government IT admins, the hackers needn't have bothered burning such a precious tool. ®

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