Oak Ridge hit by cyber attack

An advanced persistent threat cyber attack forced Oak Ridge National Laboratory to shut down all Internet access and email systems.

04/26/2011


An advanced persistent threat cyber attack forced Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to shut down all Internet access and email systems over the weekend.

Those restrictions will remain until lab officials and others investigating the attack are sure everything is back to normal, said ORNL Director Thom Mason early this week.

Mason said he expects email functions may come back online on a limited basis, with no attachments allowed and restrictions on length.

“We made the decision (around midnight Friday last week) to close down the connection to the Internet to make sure there was no data exfiltrated from the lab while we got the system cleaned up,” he said.

The lab’s cyber specialists had been monitoring the attack and recommended further action after it looked like efforts were under way to remove data from ORNL systems, Mason said.

Mason said the APT threat at ORNL is similar to attacks in recent times on Google, security company RSA, and other government institutions and corporations.

“In this case, it was initiated with phishing email, which led to the download of some software that took advantage of a ‘zero day exploit,’ a vulnerability for which there is no patch yet issued,” he said. The vulnerability involved Internet Explorer, he said.

Mason said the lab has not, to this point, detected any large-scale exfiltration of data, and the decision to shut down Internet access was to prevent any information to exit the building or to eliminate anything similar to a 2007 cyber attack at ORNL in which thieves stole large amounts of data. Following that event, the lab sent 12,000 letters to former lab visitors, informing them a thief may have stolen their Social Security numbers (although there were no subsequent reports of identity thefts or major problems).

Mason said they confiscated and quarantined some computers. He also confirmed the phishing email messages came in looking as though they were from the lab’s human resource department.



No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Water use efficiency: Diminishing water quality, escalating costs; Lowering building energy use; Power for fire pumps
Building envelope and integration; Manufacturing industrial Q&A; NFPA 99; Testing fire systems
Labs and research facilities: Q&A with the experts; Water heating systems; Smart building integration; 40 Under 40 winners
Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.