Government Warns Energy Industry of Hackers

By Tamanna Desai,
Technology & Innovation Editor

As technology innovates, the issues of privacy and security are brought to the forefront of the nation’s eye. The most recent hacker attack was on Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency in which millions of people’s credit card and identity information is stored. The Stillman Exchange Technology and Innovation team covered a story on the status of Equifax and what that means for those millions of people who’s information was stolen.

Just recently, the United States government issued a warning to energy and industrial companies to be on alert for possibly being targeted by hackers. An article on Reuters.com stated, “The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a report distributed by email late on Friday that the nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries have been targeted along with government entities in attacks dating back to at least May. The agencies warned that hackers had succeeded in compromising some targeted networks, but did not identify specific victims or describe any cases of sabotage.”

The way in which these hackers are trying to sabotage those multi-billion dollar companies is through the most common and noticeable form which is fradulent emails. These emails include link to phony websites where hackers recieve the company’s information once that linked is clicked on.

The article on Reuters also states that according to an executive of a cyber seurity firm that these hackers are possibly working in a way that could help the Russian government. “Cyber-security firm CrowdStrike said the technical indicators described in the report suggested the attacks were the work of a hacking group it calls Berserk Bear, which is affiliated with the Russian Federation and has targeted the energy, financial and transportation industries” according to Reuters.

The Federal Investigation Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security both refused to comment on the situation to Reuters. If a possible hacker attack prevails and is able to get credentials of an energy or industrial company, it could prove to be extreme detrimental not only for the company and industry but also for the United States.

For these energy companies, one can only hope that they take care of the possible hacker attack in the right way. Many say that Equifax could have avoided the breach had the company been vigilent with the possible vulnerability of their systems.

Fortune magazine states, “…Equifax…could have averted the disaster just by patching a known vulnerability in its software. Instead, the company dithered for months, allowing hackers to strip-mine Social Security numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, and more from mid-May through July, it said. When Equifax finally discovered the disaster, its first response was not to warn consumers. After waiting nearly six weeks before disclosing the breach in September, it hatched a strategy to turn its victims into paying customers—by signing them up for credit monitoring services, which originally contained fine print depriving them of the right to sue.”

The amount of people who’s information got stolen in the Equifax data breach is very concerning. Fortune magazine reported that 145.5 million people had their credit card information stolen and information from $16 billion people was stolen through identity theft in the United States in the past year.

The United States has seen data breaches in companies such as Target and Yahoo however, hackers stealing information from important and covert companies is unprecedented and extremely concerning.

A recent data breach occurred with Whole Foods according to an article on marketwatch. In response to the data breach, where consumers credit card information was stolen, Whole Foods created an online database that showed customers which locations were impacted by the data breach.

Nowadays, data breaches seem to be commonplace which leaves many to wondering whether or not the data breaches could be prevented or certain precuations could be put into place in order to ensure increased protection against future attacks.
Data breaches not only ruin a company’s reputation but also create extreme costs in order to fix the situation. One can only hope the energy companies catch the hackers before it gets too costly and too dangerous.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 24th print edition.

Contact Tamanna at
tamanna.desai@student.shu.edu

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