NOAA Hit by Cyber Attacks

By January 2, 2015 Uncategorized No Comments

Image “Unlocked Padlock Computer Screen” courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

NOAA Hit by Cyber Attacks
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) is vital to the maritime industry and the country as a whole. Threats against it, such as the recently reported set of cyber-attacks or hacks, are serious issues that demand industry and national attention. Kemplon Engineering takes a closer look at the incident.

About NOAA

NOAA’s beginnings can be traced to the United States’ first scientific agency, the Survey of the Coast, which was established in 1807. Now, its mission of understanding climate, weather, oceans and coasts and sharing information and conserving ecosystems and resources, “touches the lives of every American,” and has put them at the forefront of international science and environmental concerns. NOAA’s products and services—which include climate monitoring, daily weather forecasts, storm warnings and supporting marine commerce, just to name a few—are so vital that they impact over a third of our country’s gross domestic product.

The Cyber Attacks

The cyber-attack occurred in late September, but concerns were not raised to the proper authorities at the time. It was not acknowledged by NOAA until the 20th of October, and according to Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser, his office did not receive any notification of the attack until November 4th. The delay in reporting has been criticized by Zinser as a violation of agency policy. Also critical of NOAA’s handling of the incident is Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R.-Va.), who felt NOAA “had an obligation to tell the truth.”

The hack, which compromised four of NOAA’s websites, resulted in unavailable data that could impact long-term forecasts. The attacks—as well as NOAA’s response—are under investigation. At this time, it is not publicly known if the cyber security breach removed data or inserted malicious software. It is suspected that the Chinese are behind the cyber-attacks, but Chinese officials deny involvement in such activities.

NOAA’s vulnerable security systems have been the subject of investigations before, including a July report by the Inspector General for the Commerce Department. Unfortunately, they are not the only agency vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The Postal Service had also admitted being a victim to a breach that resulted in the theft of sensitive material relating to their customers and employees.

The recent set of incidents can have very real national security implications. We at Kemplon Engineering hope that the proper safeguards may be placed, and that better means of detection and systems of reporting can be established for our country’s continuing safety against such cyber-attacks.

References:
^ Chiacu, Doina. “U.S. weather agency reports cyber attacks on four websites.” Reuters.com, 12 Nov 2014. Web. 21 Nov 2014. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/12/us-cybersecurity-noaa-idUSKCN0IW29X20141112
^ Flaherty, Mary Pat, Jason Samenow and Lisa Rein. “Chinese hack U.S. weather systems, satellite network.” The Washington Post, 12 Nov 2014. Web. 21 Nov 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/chinese-hack-us-weather-systems-satellite-network/2014/11/12/bef1206a-68e9-11e4-b053-65cea7903f2e_story.html
^ Hall, John. “Chinese hackers break into U.S. National Weather Service computers just days after breaking into Postal Service database.” Mail Online, 13 Nov 2014. Web. 21 Nov 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2832533/Cyberattacks-hit-US-weather-service.html
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “About NOAA.” NOAA.gov. Web. Accessed 21 Nov 2014. http://www.noaa.gov/about-noaa.html
^ Rhodan, Maya. “Chinese Hackers Breached National Weather Websites.” Time, 12 Nov 2014. Web. 21 Nov 2014. https://time.com/3581563/chinese-hackers-noaa-breach-weather/