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Cyber Making Headlines in the Tennessee Valley

  • Thursday, February 13, 2020 9:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Department of Justice 
    Office of Public Affairs 

    Monday, February 10, 2020

    Chinese Military Personnel Charged with Computer Fraud, Economic Espionage and Wire Fraud for Hacking into Credit Reporting Agency Equifax

    Indictment Alleges Four Members of China’s People’s Liberation Army Engaged in a Three-Month Long Campaign to Steal Sensitive Personal Information of Nearly 150 Million Americans

    A federal grand jury in Atlanta returned an indictment last week charging four members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with hacking into the computer systems of the credit reporting agency Equifax and stealing Americans’ personal data and Equifax’s valuable trade secrets. 

    The nine-count indictment alleges that Wu Zhiyong (吴志勇), Wang Qian (王乾), Xu Ke
    (许可) and Liu Lei (刘磊) were members of the PLA’s 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese military.  They allegedly conspired with each other to hack into Equifax’s computer networks, maintain unauthorized access to those computers, and steal sensitive, personally identifiable information of approximately 145 million American victims. 

    “This was a deliberate and sweeping intrusion into the private information of the American people,” said Attorney General William P. Barr, who made the announcement. “Today, we hold PLA hackers accountable for their criminal actions, and we remind the Chinese government that we have the capability to remove the Internet’s cloak of anonymity and find the hackers that nation repeatedly deploys against us. Unfortunately, the Equifax hack fits a disturbing and unacceptable pattern of state-sponsored computer intrusions and thefts by China and its citizens that have targeted personally identifiable information, trade secrets, and other confidential information.”

    According to the indictment, the defendants exploited a vulnerability in the Apache Struts Web Framework software used by Equifax’s online dispute portal.  They used this access to conduct reconnaissance of Equifax’s online dispute portal and to obtain login credentials that could be used to further navigate Equifax’s network.  The defendants spent several weeks running queries to identify Equifax’s database structure and searching for sensitive, personally identifiable information within Equifax’s system.  Once they accessed files of interest, the conspirators then stored the stolen information in temporary output files, compressed and divided the files, and ultimately were able to download and exfiltrate the data from Equifax’s network to computers outside the United States. In total, the attackers ran approximately 9,000 queries on Equifax’s system, obtaining names, birth dates and social security numbers for nearly half of all American citizens.

    The indictment also charges the defendants with stealing trade secret information, namely Equifax’s data compilations and database designs.  “In short, this was an organized and remarkably brazen criminal heist of sensitive information of nearly half of all Americans, as well as the hard work and intellectual property of an American company, by a unit of the Chinese military,” said Barr.

    The defendants took steps to evade detection throughout the intrusion, as alleged in the indictment.  They routed traffic through approximately 34 servers located in nearly 20 countries to obfuscate their true location, used encrypted communication channels within Equifax’s network to blend in with normal network activity, and deleted compressed files and wiped log files on a daily basis in an effort to eliminate records of their activity.

    “Today’s announcement of these indictments further highlights our commitment to imposing consequences on cybercriminals no matter who they are, where they are, or what country’s uniform they wear,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.  “The size and scope of this investigation — affecting nearly half of the U.S. population, demonstrates the importance of the FBI’s mission and our enduring partnerships with the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  This is not the end of our investigation; to all who seek to disrupt the safety, security and confidence of the global citizenry in this digitally connected world, this is a day of reckoning.”

    The defendants are charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  The defendants are also charged with two counts of unauthorized access and intentional damage to a protected computer, one count of economic espionage, and three counts of wire fraud. 

    The investigation was conducted jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the Criminal and National Security Divisions of the Department of Justice, and the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.  The FBI’s Cyber Division also provided support.  Equifax cooperated fully and provided valuable assistance in the investigation.

    Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan Kitchens, Samir Kaushal, and Thomas Krepp of the Northern District of Georgia; Senior Counsel Benjamin Fitzpatrick of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section; and Trial Attorney Scott McCulloch of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting this case.  Attorneys with the Office of International Affairs provided critical assistance in obtaining evidence from overseas.  

    The details contained in the charging document are allegations.  The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

    The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

  • Monday, December 16, 2019 10:39 AM | Anonymous member

    National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020

    This year’s NDAA charts a consensus national defense policy that continues the restoration of military readiness, implements a National Defense Strategy to confront Russia, China, and other threats around the world, reforms and modernizes Pentagon business systems and bureaucracy, and – most importantly – cares for our troops and their families.  

    Here are the Cyber Provisions:

    The NDAA strengthens congressional oversight of cyber operations, and enhances the Department of Defense’s cybersecurity strategy and cyber warfare capabilities. The Conference Report:

    Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a consistent, comprehensive framework to enhance the cybersecurity of the U.S. defense industrial base;

    Requires development of metrics for the assessment of the readiness of the Cyber Mission Forces;

    Establishes a consortium of universities to advise the Secretary of Defense on cybersecurity matters;

    Establishes Principal Cyber Advisors on military cyber force matters for each military service;

    Allows the secretaries of the military departments to use up to $3 million in Operation and Maintenance funds to develop cyber operations-peculiar capabilities for the rapid creation, testing, fielding, and operation of cyber capabilities;

    Requires the Secretary of Defense to notify the congressional defense committees and describe various operational details of any delegation of authorities from the National Command Authority for military cyberspace operations;

    Directs an annual report on military cyberspace operations;

    Directs a zero-based review of Department of Defense cyber and information technology personnel;

    Mandates a study on improving cyber career paths in the Navy;

    Refines the role of the Chief Information Officer in improving enterprise-wide cybersecurity;

    Commissions a Defense Science Board study on future cyber warfighting capabilities of Department of Defense;

    Directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct a review of the cyber posture of the United States on a quadrennial basis; and

    Extends the completion date of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

  • Wednesday, November 13, 2019 5:00 PM | Anonymous member

    Join Huntsville SOF Network at The Straight To Ale Speakeasy to learn about their 2020 events, see their new web experience and more.

    -----> REGISTER HERE <----- 

  • Friday, November 01, 2019 2:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Admiral Michael Rogers (Ret.)

    Former Commander of U.S. Cyber Command
    Former Director of the National Security Agency

    Please join us for a conversation with Auburn University alumnus Admiral Michael Rogers. In a moderated discussion with McCrary Institute Director Frank Cilluffo, the Admiral will reflect upon his experiences on campus, in government, and in the private sector, after a long career devoted to public service. The conversation will span a range of cybersecurity-related issues including major threat actors, cyber defense, deterrence, other U.S. response measures, and the best path forward for the United States and its allies.


    Live Stream Link

    Friday, November 1, 2019
    2:00 - 3:00 pm CT

    Brown-Kopel Grand Hall at Auburn University
    152 Wilmore Drive, Auburn, AL 36849

  • Wednesday, October 02, 2019 7:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Follow Rocket City Now:

    Do you know what your kid is doing online? WZDX wants to help you keep your kids safe from online predators.

    Sponsored by Redstone Federal Credit Union, SAIC, and Cyber Huntsville.

     WZDX Cyber Safe Parent

  • Monday, August 05, 2019 3:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) for Acquisition & Sustainment announced a new industry day targeting Huntsville’s Aerospace and Defense contracting community.  OUSD will present information on its latest mission to create a Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, known as CMMC.


  • Tuesday, July 02, 2019 9:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On July 1, the U.S. Senate passed the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act to defend the U.S. energy grid by partnering with industry to utilize engineering concepts to remove vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to access the grid through holes in digital software system.


  • Monday, June 10, 2019 12:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The ball is rolling to get the state's first cyber technology magnet school ready for classes by next August.

    Local technology companies handed over some big donations Thursday to the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. At the National Cyber Summit they rallied in support of the school and what it means to have it in Huntsville, but there are still a lot of major pieces up in the air, like where the school will be and who will run it.

    A location is chosen for the ASCTE, according to Senator Arthur Orr, but he's not saying where it is yet. He tells WZDX News a temporary site has a small hurdle before they can announce it, but they envision being there for the first three years while construction goes on at the permanent school site. 

    Moves are being made to fund the school by companies hoping to hire its graduates.

    "We know the challenge of recruiting staff and it's just gonna get more difficult as not just DoD and NASA, but the energy industry, banking, medical, all have to protect their data," said Joe Green, president of Davidson Technologies. Davidson Technologies donated $250,000 and Torch Technologies donated $100,000 to the school Thursday. 

    The more than 300-student magnet school will make Huntsville the center for all things cyber security.

    "There's no other school or replicate anywhere like it in the country so we're the pioneers but we've got to do it right and we've got to do it with the highest quality that we can have," said State Senator Arthur Orr, (R) District 3.


    Cyber Huntsville reports there are more than 2,000 unfilled cyber and engineering jobs in Alabama. They're jobs UAH students say would be a lot easier to succeed in as a graduate from a cyber magnet school.

    "If I would have learned something like this in, let's say ninth grade, my level of skill would be an order of magnitude different," said Franco Camarillo, president of the UAH Cybersecurity Club.

    The school is expected to attract more people to the area. Local students are glad it's creating opportunities for the people already here.

    "It makes the most sense getting the people that are growing up here and then kind of developing their talent to kind of feed Huntsville and make Huntsville grow into a leading place for the cybersecurity industry," Camarillo said.

    Read more from Rocket City Now

  • Monday, June 10, 2019 12:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Huntsville's Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering got a big boost at the National Cyber Summit. Torch Technologies and Davidson Technologies Inc. presented checks to the school being built right now. Davidson donated $250,000.

    Torch donated $100,000. Decatur senator Arthur Orr is on the school's board of trustees. He said he isn't sure yet how the money will be used, but the donations are a reflection of the school's support.

    "If we get the school that we envision that is truly world-class, I can envision families moving to north Alabama to have their children matriculate at this world class institution. There's nothing else like it anywhere in the county," said senator, Arthur Orr.

    Senator Orr said they're looking to hire a principal and more donations will be announced in the coming weeks. The cyber tech school is supposed to open next year.

    Read more from WAAY 31

  • Monday, June 10, 2019 12:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the same week millions of Americans were warned twice about new risks to their online data, nearly 2,000 cyber security experts met in Alabama to talk about computer security.

    There were a lot of messages and a lot of data shared, but two thoughts stood out. “To some degree, everybody’s at risk” and “nobody cares.”

    Read more at AL.com

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