State Department deputy secretary Heather Higginbottom testified on Capitol Hill today that the State Department is routinely cyber-attacked. “We are attacked every day, thousands of times a day,” Higginbottom said in response to questioning from Georgia senator David Perdue.
Perdue asked, "Today, I'd like you to focus on this I.T. issue with me just a minute. You know, it looks like there are thousands of administrators that work for State, who might or might have access to independent investigations, as well as it looked to me like yesterday when we asked the question if there was a breach in the state system, the I.G. wouldn't necessarily know it immediately.
"Mr. Linick actually testified yesterday that the State network has actually been attacked and that it affected the Office of the Inspector General. He also told us that it took over six months to get an agreement with Diplomatic Security. Going forward, they'll notify the OIG when they go on their I.T. network. That's a Memo of Understanding, as I understand it. And with the change of administration, that may or may not be continued into the next administration. Would you comment on this I.T. independence issue and also Right of First Refusal, as well as this potential breach issue?"
Higginbottom responded, "Yes. Thank you, Senator. And I have enjoyed our conversations. Look forward to continuing them. I meet, as you know, with the I.G. every week. We discuss issues, like the ones you just raised. We worked through the issue of trying to get an MOU so that there was notification of any entry onto the system.
"Just recently, the I.G. has brought to my attention, as well as to the secretary's the request for a separate I.T. system. We're looking at that very carefully. We're seeking to understand how it would work. They need to have as he testified yesterday, some access to the systems they currently have. The architecture, we have to make sure our system is as secure as it possibly can be, given -- we are attacked every day, thousands of times a day. So we have to work -- those are difficult issues, but we're looking at that now and examining it. It's also important that we understand the costs."
Perdue responded, "I'm sorry to interrupt. Have you actually had a breach that you can talk about?"
"I can tell you, Senator, that we have been breached, this has been reported. Any further details of that, I’d be happy to have in a different setting," said Higginbottom.
The inspector general of the State Department confirmed today in Senate testimony that the State Department network at some point was hacked. He made the comments in response to a question from Georgia senator David Perdue.
Perdue asked, “Do you have evidence that the State Department’s network has been attacked, and does that affect you guys?”
In an email sent out this morning to customers, Anthem president and CEO Joseph Swedish addresses the cyberattack on the insurance company he runs. Swedish also reveals that his information was hacked too, not just the information of millions of customers.
President Obama said the hacking of Sony was an act of "cyber vandalism," and not an "act of war." He made the comments in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, according to a transcript provided by the network.
CROWLEY: Do you think this was an act of war by North Korea?
December 17 was already an important milestone for the North Korean regime: It’s the day the “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-il, died in 2011, opening the way for his son Kim Jong-un to succeed him as absolute dictator. That anniversary was marked Wednesday with commemorations to signal the end of a traditional three-year period of mourning and the emergence of Kim Jong-un as a leader in his own right.
In October 1940, Americans flocked to movie theaters to see Charlie Chaplin's TheGreatDictator, mocking the most powerful tyrant on the globe. In December 2014, movie theaters and then the production company cancelled the release of TheInterview because of threats of terror from a tinpot, though totalitarian and evil, tyrant who rules a weak and decrepit nation.
FBI director James Comey talked about Chinese hacking -- and how basically every American company has been targeted -- last night on 60 Minutes. Comey said that it's not the Chinese are so good, it's that they're "prolific." He likened their hacking style to a "drunk burglar."
60 Minutes host Scott Pelley asked, "What countries are attacking the United States as we sit here in cyberspace?"
What to do about cyber attacks from state actors and their surrogates? For the State Department and DHS it would seem that the answer is now the courts and international negotiation. Hints of this came recently with the indictment of 5 Chinese military personnel for hacking. An utterly futile gesture as the Chinese are not about to extradite the 5 to stand trial, it bespeaks reliance on legal remedies that are, at best, only a matter of public shaming. Now, however, there is new evidence regarding the U.S. intent to negotiate on cyber with state actors like China, Russia, and Iran.
The threat to the U.S. government and U.S. businesses from foreign hackers, especially from China, has been increasingly in the news in recent months. In a little noticed WTOP interview last week, recently installed National Counterintelligence Executive William Evanina expressed the threat in terms that almost seem hyperbolic:
Agence France-Presse State Department correspondent Jo Biddle is claiming on Twitter that members of the media traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry to China "have had their bank accounts hacked."