Leaked NSA report says Russians tried to hack state election officials

Enlarge / Eric Trump, son of then-presidential nominee Donald Trump, looks at wife Lara Yunaska's voting booth. An NSA report indicates Russia may have attempted to plant malware on the computers of election officials in the days before voting. (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images News)

A Top Secret NSA analyst's report published by The Intercept suggests that, in August 2016, the Russian General Main Staff Intelligence Directorate (GRU) hacked into an election-related hardware and software vendor in the US. The GRU then used data from the company for at least two "spear phishing" campaigns against local government officials associated with elections—including one attack close to the election that appeared to target officials dealing with absentee ballots. The report was based on information that only became available in April of this year, and the NSA report does not reveal the name of the company.

Within an hour of the story's publication, the FBI announced the arrest of the alleged source of the leaked report. Reality Leigh Winner was arrested at home in Augusta, Georgia, after an NSA audit identified her as the person who printed and removed the report from a secure facility. The Intercept had turned over a copy of the report to the NSA to verify its provenance while asking for comment. After analysis of the document showed that it had been folded up, suggesting it had been printed, the NSA determined only six employees had access to the document, and only Winner had been in e-mail contact with The Intercept.

Seven e-mail accounts at the vendor company were targeted with a method similar to the method that obtained access to e-mail accounts used by members of the Clinton campaign earlier in 2016, according to the text of the report. At least one of those accounts appears to have been compromised, as information from the company was then used in two separate sets of e-mails with malicious attachments sent to election officials just days before the election.

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A lack of IoT security is scaring the heck out of everybody

Enterprises aren’t yet managing the risks posed by the swelling wave of IoT technology very well, according to a study released by the Ponemon Institute.

The study, which surveyed 553 enterprise IT decision-makers, found that 78% of respondents thought that it was at least somewhat likely that their organizations would experience data loss or theft enabled by IoT devices within the next two years.

The fact that a lot of small-scale connected devices and other parts of the Internet of Things are highly insecure has been frightening IT departments for a long time. On their own, IoT gadgets aren’t particularly tempting targets, so manufacturers don’t fuss too much about security. In great numbers – and Gartner said recently that it estimates there are 8.4 billion connected devices active this year – swathes of easily compromised IoT gizmos can make for a formidable botnet, as the Mirai botnet showed in 2016.

Yet, in a lot of places, it can be difficult to put policies in place to neutralize this threat. Nearly three respondents in four – 72% – said that the speed at which IoT technology advances makes it harder to keep up with evolving security requirements. Almost as many said that new strategies are needed to cope with the problem.

Those strategies are difficult to design, according to the Ponemon study. Just 44% of respondents told researchers that their enterprise has the ability to protect itself and its network from IoT devices. Less than half said that they specifically monitor the risk posed by devices being used in the workplace.

Another big factor in the generally poor state of IoT management is organization – of the 50% or so of companies that didn’t track IoT inventory, fully 85% said that there is a lack of centralized responsibility for those devices, and over half cited a lack of resources available to perform this task.

Nevertheless, respondents at least recognize the need for a new way of thinking about IoT management – two-thirds said that “a new approach” is necessary for IT departments coping with IoT.


This article was written by Jon Gold from NetworkWorld and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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EtherApe – Graphical Network Monitor

EtherApe is a graphical network monitor for Unix modelled after etherman. Featuring link layer, IP and TCP modes, it displays network activity graphically. Hosts and links change in size with traffic. Colour coded protocols display. It supports Ethernet, FDDI, Token Ring, ISDN, PPP, SLIP and WLAN devices, plus several encapsulation formats. It can...

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