Tags: china | hack | NSA | Secrets

NSA Failures Expose Yet More Secrets, Endanger Millions

By Wednesday, 17 June 2015 01:05 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Not even halfway through the Year of the Hack, the U.S. government looks every bit as vulnerable as the private sector it wants to “help.”

The latest news: As many as 14 million current and former government employees had their private personnel files exposed to foreign hackers, reportedly Chinese. Worse, the same hackers may have also taken the extremely personal security clearance files of military and intelligence personnel.

The consequences of this loss are staggering. Somebody out there now has all the information they need to expose and/or blackmail top U.S. intelligence operatives. This is potentially far worse than the data National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden released to journalists two years ago.

I pointed out back then that NSA director Keith Alexander was closing the barn door only after the cows had escaped. Snowden could not have taken the data if Alexander had enforced common-sense precautions inside the NSA.

General Alexander is retired now, making big bucks as a “consultant” to banks and big corporations. Against all evidence, his clients apparently think Alexander is some kind of cybersecurity pro.

If the fact that Alexander gave Snowden the keys to the kingdom isn’t enough to disprove that claim, the latest government hack ought to do it.

NSA isn’t just a spy agency. Its statutory mission includes keeping all the government’s electronic information secure. We now know that it failed miserably under Keith Alexander’s watch, and again under his successor Admiral Mike Rogers.

Of course, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), from which someone stole millions of employee files, is not blameless. It appears to have been remarkably careless by, for example, not encrypting Social Security numbers.

That’s exactly the kind of mistake NSA is supposed to help other agencies avoid. Oops.
Encrypting the records might not have helped, given that NSA has intentionally baked “back door” weaknesses into many security protocols. Any number of Snowden-like individuals could have shared the keys with China and not informed the media. Nevertheless, it would have been better than nothing.

So, to sum up:

China (or somebody) has confidential files on millions of government workers, retirees, service members and intelligence agents, who are all subject to identity theft and blackmail.

Everyone knows the government’s cybersecurity efforts are laughably inadequate, making further hacks inevitable.

Government and military service is now far less attractive to people who wants their private information to stay that way.

Is anyone’s head rolling for this?

Not that we know of. If President Obama saw no reason to usher out Keith Alexander over the Snowden loss, I doubt he will do anything differently this time.

In the unlikely event someone’s head does roll, the corpse will almost certainly land in a comfortable Wall Street or corporate job, selling his or her provably flawed cybersecurity wisdom.

The worst part of all: replacing Obama with a Republican won’t help. A Republican president put Keith Alexander in charge of the henhouse.

Let’s try something different. Here is my modest proposal: Unlock every door and remove every password from all the government’s computers.

If we do that, the data won’t be much less safe than it is now, and it might even be safer.

Hackers won’t know where to look first.

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PatrickWatson
Not even halfway through the Year of the Hack, the U.S. government looks every bit as vulnerable as the private sector it wants to "help."
china, hack, NSA, Secrets
536
2015-05-17
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 01:05 PM
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