How a DHS Document Dump Imperiled U.S. Security

By Patrick Tucker

11:53 AM ET

Homeland Security inadvertently released more than 800 pages of information about how to hack energy infrastructure.

Homeland Security inadvertently released more than 800 pages of information about how to hack energy infrastructure.

 

On Friday, December 19th, the FBI officially named North Korea as the party responsible for a cyber attack and email theft against Sony Pictures. The Sony hack saw many studio executives’ sensitive and embarrassing emails leaked online. The hackers threatened to attack theaters on the opening day of the offending film, “The Interview,” and Sony pulled the plug on the movie, effectively censoring a major Hollywood studio. (Sony partially reversed course, allowing the movie to show in 331 independent theaters on Christmas Day and to be streamed online.)

Technology journalists were quick to point out that, even though the cyber attack could be attributable to a nation state actor, it wasn’t particularly sophisticated. Ars Technica’s Sean Gallagher likened it to a “software pipe bomb.” The fallout, of course, was limited. And while President Barack Obama vowed to respond to the attack, he also said it was a mistake for Sony to back down.

“I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this. They’re going to be costly. They’re going to be serious. We take them with the utmost seriousness. But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm. So, let’s not get into that — that way of doing business,” he said at a White House briefing on Friday.

But according to cyber-security professionals, the Sony hack may be a prelude to a cyber attack on United States infrastructure that could occur in 2015, as a result of a very different, self-inflicted document dump from the Department of Homeland Security in July.

2015: The Year of Aurora?

Here’s the background: On July 3, DHS, which plays “key role” in responding to cyber-attacks on the nation, replied to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on a malware attack on Google called “Operation Aurora.”

Unfortunately, as Threatpost writer Dennis Fisher reports, DHS officials made a grave error in their response. DHS released more than 800 pages of documents related not to Operation Aurora but rather the Aurora Project, a 2007 research effort led by Idaho National Laboratory demonstrating how easy it was to hack elements in power and water systems.

Oops.

READ MORE:  How a DHS Document Dump Imperiled U.S. Security – Tech – GovExec.com.

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