Tags: Homeland Security | China | NOAA | hackers | cyber-attacks

Reports: China Hacks Into NOAA Websites

By    |   Wednesday, 12 November 2014 06:05 PM

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it was targeted by hackers — and officials think China is behind the cyber-attacks, reports said Wednesday.

NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service, said four of its websites were compromised in "recent weeks" by an "Internet-sourced attack," though it didn't say who was behind the attack or what websites or data was compromised — and that "unscheduled maintenance was performed" to "mitigate" the breach, CBS News reports.

But The Washington Post, which first reported the September breach, said Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf asserted that China was behind the attack.

Wolf said he had asked NOAA about the incident after an inquiry from The Post, the newspaper reports, adding that officials gave no hint there even was a problem until Oct. 20.

"NOAA told me it was a hack and it was China," Wolf told The Post, scolding the agency for delaying the disclosure "and deliberately misleading the American public in its replies."

"They had an obligation to tell the truth," Wolf said. "They covered it up."

Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser told the newspaper his office wasn't notified of the breach until Nov. 4, a violation of agency policy requiring any security incident to be reported to his office within two days of discovery.

"We're in the process of looking into the matter, including why NOAA did not comply with the requirements to notify law enforcement about the incident," Zinser told The Post.

The NOAA breach comes on the heels of an acknowledgment by the U.S. Postal Service that a suspected Chinese attack in September compromised data of 800,000 employees.

It also comes as President Barack Obama ends meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping that "stressed the importance of protecting intellectual property as well as trade secrets, especially against cyber-threats," CBS News notes.

The NOAA attack in September hit a web server connecting to many NOAA computers, The Post reports, adding that one source compared the server's security protections to "a screen door."

NOAA operates two types of satellite systems for the United States: geostationary satellites and polar-orbiting satellites.

Geostationary satellites monitor the Western Hemisphere from around 22,240 miles above the Earth, and polar-orbiting satellites circle the Earth and provide global information from an orbit 540 miles high, CBS News reports.

The hack may have been aimed less at manipulating weather data than finding an opening in a U.S. system to exploit, Jacob Olcott, a cyber-security consultant with Good Harbor Security Risk Management and former Senate staffer on cyber-security legislation, told The Post.

"The bad guys are increasingly having a hard time getting in the front of these agencies," he said. "So, they figure if I can't get in the front door, I'd ride along in with someone who has trusted access and maybe ride that connection to bigger agencies."

Wolf told the newspaper a hacker could steal technical insights or isolated information "that may not look significant until they're put with something else, and then they become valuable."

"The Chinese are stealing us blind," he said.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it was targeted by hackers — and officials think China is behind the cyber-attacks, reports said Wednesday.
China, NOAA, hackers, cyber-attacks
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 06:05 PM
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