March 26, 2011

U.S. responds to cyberattack

WASHINGTON - Federal agencies are confronting possible repercussions from a cyberattack disclosed late last week on one of the nation's largest information-security companies.

RSA Security, a division of EMC, has contracts throughout the federal government for its SecurID system, which uses a token to generate a random six-digit number every 60 seconds. That number, when used with a user's password, provides access to unclassified systems throughout government agencies.

In a filing March 17 to the Securities and Exchange Commission, EMC reported "an extremely sophisticated" cyberattack that targeted its RSA business unit and resulted in "certain information" about its products "being extracted."

Although there were no reports of lost customer data, the risk is that the stolen information could enable a successful attack later, company officials said.

"We do not believe that either customer or employee personally identifiable information was compromised as a result of this incident," RSA Executive Chairman Art Coviello said in a letter to customers accompanying the March 17 filing.

Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the federal government was working with RSA to secure networks that are accessible via SecurID.

The tokens would generally be used when a government employee is trying to gain access to a computer system while on a personal computer or laptop.

"It's not classified data, but more proprietary and personal data that's at issue," said one defense industry official familiar with the breach, which occurred this month.

"It will be a fairly significant event before this is all said and done."

Security experts said the breach demonstrates another evolution in cyber-attackers' tactics.

Instead of targeting banks or government agencies, they are targeting firms that provide security to those entities.

by Ellen Nakashima Washington Post Mar. 24, 2011 12:00 AM

U.S. responds to cyberattack

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