Personal information on several hundred employees at the the US Department of Energy has been compromised as the result of a hack attack, according to media reports.
The FBI is reportedly investigating the attack, which was detected around two weeks ago. According to officials quoted in the Washington Free Beacon, the damage appears to have been limited to 14 servers and 20 desktop workstations at the DoE's HQ. Although the breach might have ultimately been aimed at gaining access to classified systems, early indications are that no classified info was compromised, according to an official letter from the agency to its employees seen by Reuters.
For now the identity of the hackers and how they went about accessing vulnerable systems remains unclear. However two months ago, an official government report criticised the Department of Energy for its tardiness in patching desktop systems. More than half of the agency's desktops had failed to apply patches issued months beforehand, according to an assessment by the DoE's inspector general.
This is exactly the sort of basic security mistake - akin to leaving gaps in the fencing around sensitive buildings - that makes life easier for potential intruders. China has unsurprisingly emerged as among the most likely suspects behind the hack attack, at least according to early reports of the breach, which are notably thin in furnishing any evidence to back up this suspicion.