Around five federal civilian agencies were breached recently, in a hit to the US government, revealed an investigation by a top Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which followed emergency protocol to minimize damage from the attack. Suspected hackers from China exploited vulnerabilities in Pulse Secure VPN, a popular remote connectivity tool, to hack into government organizations, defense systems, financial agencies across Europe and the US, said a report released earlier this month.
For the past few weeks, CISA has been constantly working to find out to find the total damage of the attack and help organizations protect their systems, telling organizations to run an “integrity tool” to look for potential breaches. Matt Hartman, Deputy Executive Assistant Director of Cybersecurity said “CISA is aware of at least five federal civilian agencies who have run the Pulse Connect Secure Integrity Tool and identified indications of potential unauthorized access.” CISA is coordinating with various agencies to verify if a breach occurred and to provide assistance as a response to the issue. The news came out first when Reuters reported about the affected agencies. Earlier this week, CNN had reported that CISA found 24 Federal Civilian Agencies using Pulse Secure VPN, but were not sure whether they were compromised.
CNN reports, “The discovery of potential breaches comes a little over a week after CISA issued a rare “emergency directive” ordering all federal civilian agencies to determine how many instances of the product they have, run the “integrity tool,” install updates and submit a report to CISA. Emergency directives are used when there is a high potential for compromise of agency systems. Since March 31, CISA has been assisting multiple entities whose vulnerable Pulse Connect Secure products have been exploited by a cyber threat actor, according to a CISA spokesperson.”
The US government is still determining the extent of the attack. The Pulse Secure VPN intrusions don’t show any signs of sophisticated attack or supply chain attack, as was the case with the recent SolarWinds attack. The hack was also different from the Microsoft Exchange Server Campaign indiscriminate targetting, where hackers breached thousands of servers.
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