November 30, 2021

Report: Foreign hackers breach companies in several sensitive industry sectors

On the heels of several similar attacks earlier this year impacting the energy and meat packing sectors, a report from a cybersecurity firm claims that foreign hackers have successfully gained access to the systems of no fewer than nine companies in key sectors, something certain to send the White House scrambling for answers, as Newsmax reports.

Speaking exclusively to CNN, officials from security firm Palo Alto Networks described the attacks that reportedly breached companies within the energy, defense, technology, health care, and education sectors, including at least one inside the United States.

Ryan Olson of Palo Alto Networks explained that in this instance, hackers surreptitiously obtained passwords from certain targeted companies with a strategy of having ongoing access to their networks. This would, in turn, allow them to intercept sensitive data transmitted via email or kept on company systems for as long as they were able to operate undetected.

Alarmingly, Olson added that the nine entities already confirmed to have been breached are likely โ€œthe tip of the spear,โ€ of the current hacking initiative, and that additional targets are likely to be revealed.

Furthermore, while it remains unknown precisely who is behind this particular hack, Palo Alto Networks indicated that the tools and tactics used by the hackers in this case seem to share similarities with those used by a known hacking group originating in China.

According to Olson, all firms engaged in business with the Pentagon could have the sort of data in their email traffic that would be attractive to foreign spies, and therefore need to remain on guard.

โ€œIn aggregate, access to that information can be really valuable. Even if it’s not classified information, even it it’s just information about how the business is doing,โ€ Olson opined.

Neither the National Security Agency nor the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have yet commented on the potential identity of those responsible for the hacking, though officials assured CNN than news of the hacking efforts is encouraging evidence of the collaborative work they are doing with private cybersecurity firms to remain alert to these sorts of threats.

Though the aforementioned federal agencies are continuing to monitor this threat and others, it appears that the national security dangers posed by foreign actors bent on siphoning critical information from vulnerable networks have reached a level requiring even greater vigilance from this and every subsequent administration.

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