The FBI is investigating a breach at the computer company Juniper Networks that had U.S. officials fearing that hackers working for a foreign government for the last three years have accessed encrypted communications by private companies and the U.S. government.
Juniper sent out a warning
on Thursday with an emergency security patch, urging users to update systems, reports CNN
, and one U.S. official said the backdoor installed by hackers was like "stealing a master key to get into any government building."
The sophistication of the breach is leading officials to believe it to be the work of a foreign government, but it is not believed U.S. spy agencies were involved. China and Russia are the top suspects, but U.S. officials said no conclusions have been reached and the matter remains under investigation.
The Juniper Networks equipment is widely used, and a senior administration official said the Department of Homeland Security is in close touch with the company.
The security fix is in place to close the back door and block hackers from remotely logging into VPN networks, where they spy on communication.
According to Juniper, the hackers wrote "unauthorized code" that could allow a "knowledgeable attacker to gain administrative access," meaning a spy could monitor encrypted traffic and communications.
Juniper counts the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and Treasury among its clients, as well as the FBI and numerous private corporations.
The company said in its alert that it was not aware that there was any malicious exploitation of the vulnerabilities, but still, attackers could remove security logs that show a breach, leaving no way to determine if it had happened.
As the work to alter the source code was sophisticated, the system had been compromised for three years before the problem was uncovered in a routine review. Jupiter also plans to launch a security fix for another issue that can allow hackers to launch denial-of-service attacks on computer networks, CNN reports.
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