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Exec Share Lessons Learned From Recent Cyberattack

CIO of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory speaks openly about a a pair of summer attacks
When Pacific Northwest National Laboratory detected a cyber attack--actually two of them--against its tech infrastructure in July, the lab acted quickly to root out the exploits and secure its network. PNNL then did something few other cyber attack victims have been willing to do. It decided to talk openly about what happened.

The lab's CIO, Jerry Johnson, last week provided a detailed accounting of the cyber attacks. Speaking at the IW500 Conference in Dana Point, Calif., Johnson described how intruders took advantage of a vulnerability in one of the lab's public-facing web servers to plant a "drive-by" exploit on the PCs of site visitors, lab employees among them. For weeks, the hackers then surreptitiously scouted PNNL's network from the compromised workstations.

Simultaneously, a spear-phishing attack hit one of the lab's major business partners, with which it shared network resources. This second group of hackers was able to obtain a privileged account and compromise a root domain controller that was shared by the lab and its partner. When the intruders tried to recreate and elevate account privileges, this action triggered an alarm, alerting the lab's cybersecurity team.

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