Major Pentagon hack has US officials pointing finger at Russia

7 Aug 2015

The heart of the US military, the Pentagon in Washington DC, has once again found itself the victim of a major, sophisticated cyberattack and the finger of blame is being pointed at Russia.

The major Pentagon hack was targeted specifically at the Pentagon’s joint staff email system and, according to unnamed US officials, has shut the email system down for two weeks.

Speaking to NBC News, the insiders said that this particular cyber intrusion has not been able to access some of the most sensitive information, but has managed to gain access to more than 4,000 personnel files for both civilian and military employees.

The attack was believed to have been working out of an automated system designed to gain entry into the Pentagon’s systems, gather vast amounts of information rapidly, and then distribute them to thousands of locations online.

When asked who the perpetrator was, one of the US officials asked said: “It was a spear-phishing attack traced to that country,” referring to Russia. The official went on to say that due to the sophistication of the attack: “It was clearly the work of a state actor.”

Poking the Cozy Bear

However, the second official questioned erred on the side of caution as to whether it could have been state orchestrated or individual hackers or groups operating within the country.

Last March, Russia was also blamed for another major cyberattack aimed at the US government’s servers, including emails within the servers of the White House, but not those of US President Barack Obama.

However, it had gained access to the president’s schedule, all of which was blamed on the Russian state, with suggestions that the motive behind the major breach was sanctions imposed on the country over its dealings with its neighbour, Ukraine.

Cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch has spoken following this latest breach about the influence of the hacker group Cozy Bear, which has ties with the Russian government and has already been behind attacks against US agencies.

Pentagon building image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic