Tuesday, December 22, 2009

FBI Investigating Citibank Hack

The FBI is looking into a breach at Citibank by a Russian cybergang, the Wall Street Journal reported today. The gang apparently began breaching Citibank over the summer and was uncovered by investigators in the US who noticed suspicious traffic from IP addresses used by the Russian Business Network.

Citibank denies any breach took place. The Russian Business Network is a well-known hacking group that has developed tools for breaching US government systems.

What concerns security experts is the potential for widespread damage to the banking system. They say that if hackers could get into one bank and manipulate data, they could easily get into others, creating chaos in banks and financial markets.

And, this is where hackers seeking financial gain -- the root of most hacking today -- might be crossing the line into cyber threats against national security. Supposedly, according to the Wall Street Journal article, this is what got the NSA and DHS in on the party, exchanging informaton with the FBI.

From the other side, as well, the attack may point to a revival of former members of the Russian Business Network, which has been quiet for the past two years. Investigators say a tool developed by a Russian hacker called Black Energy may have been used in the Citibank cyberheist.

Monday, December 21, 2009

White House Taps Schmidt for Cyber Security

President Barack Obama has picked Howard Schmidt to be the national cybersecurity coordinator, according to the Associated Press. Schmidt has a 40-year career in cybersecurity, spanning law enforcement, private industry and even briefly in the Bush administration.

The announcement hasn't yet been public, according to the AP, quoting a senior White House official on condition of anonymity. Obama was personally involved in the search and picked Schmidt after an extensive search. Though he won't report directly to the president, he'll have regular and direct access.

Cybersecurity is a key issue facing Obama but has taken a back seat to his health care program and the war Afghanistan.

Schmidt wrote an interesting book, covering his long career, Patrolling Cyberspace, which I enjoyed immensely. It was a nice short book packed with a lot of history about the beginnings of hacking, much of which has been forgotten. He was definitely a visionary, seeing the problem long before law enforcement took it seriously.

The book also got a favorable review from M. E. Kabay in his regular Network World column.