"We laid nuclear waste to their systems, owning their pathetic Windows box, dropping their databases and private emails, and defaced their professional looking website," according to the Pastebin post from AntiSec, a loosely affiliated hacking group that's an offshoot of Anonymous and the now defunct LulzSec. The group said it targeted IRC Federal for "selling out their 'skills' to the U.S. empire."
IRC Federal, a government contractor, works with the Army, Navy, NASA, and Department of Justice, among other organizations. As of press time, the IRC Federal website remained offline following the attack. According to statement released by the company, "We reported it to the authorities, and otherwise we have no comment."
Extracts of the material supposedly stolen from IRC Federal were posted to text-snippet-sharing website Pastebin. Meanwhile, a more complete, 107-MB torrent file was shared via the Pirate Bay.
"In their emails we found various contracts, development schematics, and internal documents for various government institutions including a proposal for the FBI to develop a 'Special Identities Modernization (SIM) Project' to 'reduce terrorist and criminal activity by protecting all records associated with trusted individuals and revealing the identities of those individuals who may pose serious risk to the United States and its allies,'" said the AntiSec post.
In addition, AntiSec said it found login information for multiple VPNs, as well as Department of Energy "login access panels," all of which it released in the torrent file, together with "live ASP file browser and upload backdoors." Interestingly, the Pacific Northwest National Labs, operated under contract to the Department of Energy, suffered a sophisticated cyber attack earlier this month.
How was the IRC Federal website breached? AntiSec said it compromised the site via a SQL injection attack, which enabled it to retrieve an administrator's login credentials. AntiSec then used other techniques to grab database information and emails, in part thanks to some administrators having reused their passwords across various systems.
The AntiSec attack against IRC Federal follows recent warnings from auditors over the poor state of government agencies' database security. Notably, government auditors found that numerous Department of Homeland Security databases, storing sensitive citizen data and defense information, were improperly configured or running with known bugs. Likewise, auditors found that despite the $1.1 million it's recently spent on database security tools, nearly all of the IRS's 2,200 databases sport serious security problems.
As illustrated by the attack against IRC Federal, incorrectly configured databases, or databases with known vulnerabilities, give malicious insiders or outsiders an opportunity to steal, alter, or delete the information stored in the database.
In the new, all-digital Dark Reading supplement: What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in this issue: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)