June 2nd, 2011

Defense Department Contractors Targeted

In the last week Lockheed Martin, then L-3 Communications Holdings have been in the news due to sophisticated cyber attacks on their networks by unknown actors. Now there are rumors that Northrop Grumman may have been targeted as well, since the company shut down remote access to the company's network. Are these events linked to the attack on RSA which was reported on May 17th?

For those that haven't been keeping up, it is assumed the adversaries responsible for the RSA intrusion may have access to the seed files, serial numbers and the algorithm for multiple RSA keyfobs used by over 40 million RSA customers worldwide. Although RSA is saying that this information alone can't be used to launch an attack, it's not hard to assume that the attackers either already have or are confident they can get what they needed to use the stolen RSA information to launch a successful attack.

This recent activity goes beyond the need for "cleanup on isle 9", and leads one to believe that all these events could be the start to a series of attacks which were extensively planned, beginning with the RSA attack, and are now and will continue to be well resourced. Given the high profile nature of the businesses being targeted, and the level of effort involved, I think it's safe to assume that we will see more from these attackers in the future. In an effort to better prepare ourselves for future attacks here are some questions needing answers:

  1. What data were the attackers after and why?
  2. How did those companies get exploited?
  3. Were there signs prior to the exploitation attempts?
  4. Was there active reconnaissance of the company or their users?
  5. Were there exploitation attempts against their users that failed?
  6. Were there exploitation attempts against the company network?
  7. Is the RSA attack and these incidents truly linked?

VPN access, albeit a necessity for remote users, is a major security risk that needs to be actively monitored. One of the initial steps in conducting network defense is to define the enclave’s borders which is increasingly difficult because of the needs of remote users and the federations across organizations. Each access point of a network needs to be heavily monitored and the systems that are used to access the VPN need to be examined on a regular basis to ensure there is no malicious software located on their systems. Given the current trend to move to the cloud one begins to wonder where the enterprise starts and stops and how we can truly protect the enterprise from the perimeter.

Reference:

http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Security/Northrop-Grumman-L3-Communications-Hacked-via-Cloned-RSA-SecurID-Tokens-841662/

http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/security/229700151

http://www.lockheedmartin.com/news/press_releases/2011/0528hq-secuirty.html