U.S. government-funded labs targeted by cyber attacks

It’s safe to say that successful U.S. companies, government facilities and military contractors are by now to aware that they should always be on the lookout for cyber espionage attempts.

Attackers that are determined and resourceful enough can practically always find a way to access the network of any institution, so the key to preventing the theft of sensitive information is to detect the intrusion before they manage to access the data and exfiltrate it.

The IT staff of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory – which has recently suffered a breach of its networks – hasn’t managed to detect the compromise in time and some data was stolen. Despite their efforts to clean up the system, they finally had to shut down the Internet connection for its employees in order to perform a thorough malware sweep and to prevent the exfiltration of the data.

But, it seems that the incident has proved to be a valuable lesson to other institutions. According to Reuters, when two government-funded research laboratories and a defense contractor were targeted, they reacted by instantly shutting down Internet access to their networks.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory and the Batelle Corporation (the government contractor that manages PNNL) discovered the attacks two weeks ago.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s website is still offline, but the fast reaction to the attack prevented the theft of information. “The good news is no classified information has been compromised or is in danger from this attack,” offered the PNNL spokesman. “At this time, we have not found any indication of ‘exfiltration’ of information from our unclassified networks as well.”

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