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Cyber attack on LANL outs personal info

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By Roger Snodgrass

People whose personal information was potentially compromised by a hacking incident at Los Alamos National Laboratory have begun to receive letters of notice from Tom Harper, LANL’s chief information officer.A letter dated Dec. 7, to “Sir or Madam” informs the addressee, “We do not believe that your PII (personally identifiable information) was the target of the hackers. Nevertheless, our current analysis indicates that the computers attacked did contain the following items of your PII: social security number.”The letters includes information on recommended precautions to protect against identity theft.A laboratory spokesperson said all laboratory employees were informed on Nov. 9 of a “malicious, sophisticated hacking event” on a small number of unclassified computers on the laboratory’s unclassified or ‘Yellow network.”The incident may be related to a similar attack acknowledged in more detail by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in an advisory issued last week that said the attack appeared to be “part of a coordinated attempt to gain access to computer networks at numerous laboratories and other institutions across the country.”The advisory said the first Oak Ridge incident occurred on Oct. 29, 2007, and that there was “reason to believe that data was stolen from a database used for visitors at the laboratory.”LANL officials said the attack removed a significant amount of data.“They were able to get behind the firewall,” said Kevin Roark of the lab’s Communications Office.Roark said it is not the first time that the firewall has been penetrated.There was an incident about three years ago, also an attack on multiple facilities, which was under investigation and about which officials were unwilling to speak at the time.Roark said he did not know what came of the previous incident.He said the lab is the object of 50,000 cyber-attacks daily, and sometimes 10 times that number.“The exact nature of the information is currently under computer forensic investigation,” he said in a prepared statement. “We cannot elaborate on the details of the nature of the attack or the nature of the data taken at this time because revealing specifics of this event could damage the current investigation and adversely affect our ability to effectively deal with situations like this in the future.”In Sen. Jeff Bingman’s office, spokeswoman Jude McCartin said they had been briefed on the issue, which had affected a number of labs.“We would have expected that a certain level of encryption would be in place for this kind of information,” she said. “They’re going to have to make some upgrades."