Hacktivists allegedly affiliated with Anonymous have been covertly breaking into US government systems and pilfering sensitive information for nearly a year, the FBI warned last week.
The attacks (which began last December and are thought to be ongoing) exploit flaws in Adobe's ColdFusion web app development software to plant backdoors on compromised systems, according to an FBI memo seen by Reuters. The memo said the US army, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, and others had all been targeted.
Officials told the news agency that the warning was linked to attacks allegedly carried out by Lauri Love, 28, of Stradishall, England and others. Love alone was indicted in New Jersey last month over a string of attacks that matches that latest warnings.
A DoJ statement on the indictment lists 10 attacks against US government systems, eight of which are blamed on ColdFusion exploits1. The remaining two attacks were blamed on SQL injection-style assaults.
Some of the breaches have been publicised by Anonymous under the a campaign dubbed Operation Last Resort (#OpLastResort), which aims to protest against the overzealous prosecution of computer crime suspects including Aaron Swartz, a programmer who committed suicide under the shadow of a prosecution for computer crimes after he systematically downloaded academic journal articles from the JSTOR digital library.
The FBI is urging government sysadmins and website administrators to take urgent remedial action to contain the problem, which it warns is more serious than recent press reports of hack against US government systems might suggest.
"The majority of the intrusions have not yet been made publicly known," the Feds warned, Reuters reports. "It is unknown exactly how many systems have been compromised, but it is a widespread problem that should be addressed."
News of the warning broke late last week shortly after Anonymous affiliated hacker Jeremy Hammond was jailed for 10 years for hacking into the systems of private intelligence firm Stratfor and stealing credit card details and emails.
Hammond claimed in court that LulzSec suspect turned super-snitch Hector "Sabu" Monseigneur had encouraged him to hack into the websites of various governments under the AntiSec banner. An earlier (more concise) statement from Hammond along the same lines can be found on the FreeJeremy support website here.
The harsh sentence against Hammond prompted elements of Anonymous to re-launch OpLastResort, with a video about the ongoing Edward Snowden revelations that refers to "Global Cyberwar II". Apparently Global Cyberwar I happened two years ago. ®
1 Separately security firm Hold Security has linked attacks against ColdFusion version 8 to the recent high-profile theft of Adobe source code as well as attacks against LexisNexis and others.