Report: Hackers accessed US nuclear weapons agency

Officials say hackers accessed US nuclear weapons agency during this week's massive cyberattack.

Elad Benari ,

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The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the US nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks as part of an extensive espionage operation that has affected at least half a dozen federal agencies, officials directly familiar with the matter told Politico on Thursday.

DOE and NNSA officials began coordinating notifications about the breach to their congressional oversight bodies after being briefed by Rocky Campione, the chief information officer at DOE, according to the report.

They found suspicious activity in networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington, the Office of Secure Transportation and the Richland Field Office of the DOE.

The hackers have been able to do more damage at FERC than the other agencies, the officials said, but did not elaborate.

On Wednesday, the US government confirmed that a cyberattack affected its networks and said the attack was "significant and ongoing".

"This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government," said a joint statement issued by the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

"Over the course of the past several days, the FBI, CISA, and ODNI have become aware of a significant and ongoing cybersecurity campaign," the joint statement said.

The confirmation came days after it was reported that a group of hackers backed by a “foreign government” stole information from the US Treasury Department and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Subsequently it was revealed that the attack also targeted the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that Russian government hackers are responsible for the breach.

Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, on Tuesday cut short a European trip in order to return to Washington to coordinate the government response to the hacking.

Politico noted the attack on DOE is the clearest sign yet that the hackers were able to access the networks belonging to a core part of the US national security enterprise. The hackers are believed to have gained access to the federal agencies’ networks by compromising the software company SolarWinds, which sells IT management products to hundreds of government and private-sector clients.



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