Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

Hacker Cuts Swath Through US Government Computers

Romanian man indicted for breaking into more than 150 federal government systems, violating live NASA data

A federal grand jury yesterday indicted a Romanian hacker for allegedly breaking into more than 150 U.S. government computer systems between March and October of this year, including those used to collect and process data from operational NASA spacecraft.

In a ten-count federal indictment, Victor Faur, 26, of Arad, Romania, was accused of being the leader of the "WhiteHat Team," a group of highly skilled hackers. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office of Central California, the group's objective was not to steal data, but to test their mettle against some of the most secure computers in the world.

The WhiteHat Team allegedly penetrated many of the computers associated with NASA space flight programs, including systems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Goddard Space Flight Center, Sandia National Laboratory, and the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Following the hacks, NASA, the Energy Department, and the Navy could no longer rely on the integrity of their system data, so they had to rebuild the systems, leaving scientists and engineers to communicate manually with systems in orbit and in deep space. The agencies collectively spent nearly $1.5 million to find and fix the vulnerabilities.

The indictment does not accuse Faur of stealing data, but of vandalizing the computers penetrated by the WhiteHat Team. After hacking into and taking control of the government computers, Fau allegedly "caused the machines to display screens that flaunted the computer intrusion," according to the charges. Faur and his teammates also set up chat rooms and created email accounts on the hijacked systems, the U.S. Attorney said.

According to the indictment, the WhiteHat Team began its exploits using "brute force" attacks designed to guess usernames and passwords on computers at NASA, the Department of Energy, and other agencies. Once they found a working point of entry, they loaded a variety of programs -- including rootkits, keyloggers, sniffers, and spoofers -- to collect additional passwords and gain high-level access to interconnected machines at a variety of agencies and organizations.

Faur is charged with conspiracy and nine counts of computer intrusion. If convicted on all 10 counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 54 years in federal prison.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-14
An HTTP Request Smuggling vulnerability in Pulse Secure Virtual Traffic Manager before 21.1 could allow an attacker to smuggle an HTTP request through an HTTP/2 Header. This vulnerability is resolved in 21.1, 20.3R1, 20.2R1, 20.1R2, 19.2R4, and 18.2R3.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-14
Hexagon G!nius Auskunftsportal before allows SQL injection via the GiPWorkflow/Service/DownloadPublicFile id parameter.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
Piwigo 11.4.0 allows admin/user_list_backend.php order[0][dir] SQL Injection.
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
The Flask-Caching extension through 1.10.1 for Flask relies on Pickle for serialization, which may lead to remote code execution or local privilege escalation. If an attacker gains access to cache storage (e.g., filesystem, Memcached, Redis, etc.), they can construct a crafted payload, poison the ca...
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
Bitcoin Core 0.12.0 through 0.21.1 does not properly implement the replacement policy specified in BIP125, which makes it easier for attackers to trigger a loss of funds, or a denial of service attack against downstream projects such as Lightning network nodes. An unconfirmed child transaction with ...