Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Federal Government's Data Systems World: A Hacker's Paradise

We have already discussed today’s topic in a previous post but since that discussion, more and worse information has become known. Previously, we had reported on how hackers from China, quite possibly within the Chinese government, had gained access to the Federal government’s personnel data files and had stolen the personal and private information of millions of Federal employees.

This was obviously a disaster on any number of fronts:

  • These employees could now be subject to identity theft since a foreign entity has all of the information (address, age, birthdate, social security information, etc.) of millions of Americans from which they can do a lot of financial damage and criminal activity.
  • Since job titles were also stolen, these Americans could also be subjected to bribery or blackmail since the hackers now know what each of those employees do for the Federal government and American citizens.
Nasty stuff. But the incompetence of the Federal government in this matter gets far worse, according to an article by Daily Beast writer John Schindler that was summarized in the June 26, 2015 issue of The Week magazine:

  • Information that was collected by the hackers included the files of every government worker who was granted a security clearance including many intelligence operatives, in other words, the hackers may now know who our spies around the world are, placing both them and their families in serious danger.
  • The hacked files also included individuals’ information and vices including gambling problems, drug abuse history, drinking afflictions, sexual affairs, credit histories, etc., in other words, the hackers now have an easy way to find out who might be most easily bribed or blackmailed based on the failings of an individual Federal employee. 
  • The information hacked also included family members information such as wife’s name, kids’ names, addresses, etc. making the blackmail angle that much more real since the hackers can use the safety of family members as a threat. 
  • Thus, not only has personal information of 4 million Federal employees been obtained, but information on each employee’s family and friends, both in the U.S. have been obtained, making the hack much larger than just the obscene 4 million.
  • Mr. Schindler also correctly points out that not only can our spies now be identified and exposed, they can also be blackmailed in place in any number of ways while remaining in their sensitive U.S. government jobs.
Nasty, nasty scandal. Mr. Schindler correctly points out how bad the hack is using such terms as the hack is a “genuine debacle for Washington" and for those who had their personal information compromised, “this is a matter of life and death.” 

But as bad as his article is, it is getting even worse. According to a June 15, 2015 Associated Press (AP) article:

  • The White House sat on the information that millions of Federal employees personal information had been stolen for four weeks, four weeks that millions of employees could have used to lock down their credit reports and at least start to protect themselves from identity theft. 
  • Instead, unbeknownst to them, their financial futures sat exposed. 
  • The AP reported that not only were 4 million current employees’ records compromised, but upwards of and amazing 14 million current and former employees records were likely compromised.
Even the face of such a massive screw up by the political class and the Federal government it poorly operates and oversees, the White House, you remember, the one that was going to be the “most transparent ever,” tried to downplay, hide, minimize the hack since its official press release to news organizations initially called the hack “an issue with implications for the U.S. intelligence community was about to be disclosed and predicted that it would generate some minor [my emphasis] news coverage in Washington and trade periodicals.”

Pretty amazing that someone, anyone with any common sense would try to pass off the biggest computer hack of personal information in the history of mankind “minor” but such is the cover your butt mentality of the Federal government.

But it gets even worse. A simple Internet search of Chinese hacking reveals the following history of such behavior:

  • The Daily Mail reported on October 1, 2012 that the Chinese government hacked into White House office in charge of the nuclear launch and also the state-run Medicaid system in Utah.
  • The Washington Post reported on November 12, 2014 that Chinese hackers had gotten access to Federal government weather and satellite data systems.
  • On March 11, 2013, The Hill reported that the Obama White House demanded that Chinese hackers stop trying to hack American companies.
  • On October 1, 2014, Fox News reported that Chinese hackers had hacked into White House computer systems. 
  • Not to be outdone by the Chinese, on April 8, 2015, CBS News reported that Russian hackers had hacked White House computer systems.
In other words, for at least three years, the Obama administration and the Federal government actually knew they were under attack by Chinese hackers and still could not prevent the latest, massive download of 14 million Americans’ records to Chinese hackers. If you looked up the word “incompetence” in the dictionary, putting a picture of the Federal government next to it would be totally appropriate.

But there is more. According to a June 22, 2015 Washington Examiner article by Sarah Westwood, Hillary Clinton has admitted that the State Department’s data system network was also vulnerable to hacking attacks when she ran that operation: "The State Department was attacked at least every day, if not several times a day while I was there. Many of those were repelled by the security protections that were in the system, but we know there have been increasingly sophisticated attacks that are penetrating."

And yet despite knowing that the State Department, with what one would assume is the best brains of the Federal government trying to protect the Department’s data systems, was under constant hacking probes and attacks, she went ahead and put an unofficial and probably lightly secured email server IN HER HOUSE from which she did State Department business. Excuse the language, but how stupid is that move? And she wants to be our next President? Horrible, horrible judgement.

Given what we now know about the sophistication and focus of foreign governments’ hacking abilities I think it is a pretty safe bet that anything that Clinton ran through her private IN HOUSE email server was immediately known to foreign governments around the world. Absolutely no way to run our foreign affairs organization.

So let’s review:

  1. Even though the political class and Federal government had ample warning they were constantly being hacked by foreign entities and governments for years, they still could not prevent the biggest computer hack and security breakdown in the history of mankind.
  2. Even though the Secretary of State knew her department’s operations were under daily hacking probes and attacks, she still, somehow, thought it was a good idea to have her own email server in her house, likely leading to the world knowing everything going on within the State Department.
  3. As a result, millions of Americans are now under a definite threat of identity theft, blackmail, bribery, and possible death threats.

The American taxpayer gives the Washington political class roughly $3 TRILLION every year in taxes and this is the garbage we get in return: total ineptness. Just another example of what we have been calling for over the past few years:

  • The Federal government has to be downsized by at least 50% since today it does a lot of things horribly bad; we need to get it much smaller so that the politicians and Government entities in Washington focus on far fewer priorities and maybe, just maybe actually resolve an issue once in a while or do their jobs effectively.
  • We need to install term limits for all Federal politicians, one and done. How much worse could it get, how much more secret personal and State Department information could be lost to hackers if we replaced every single career politician with new faces and new ideas, and possibly people that actually cared about the country and its taxpayer citizens instead of their own egos, greed, and perpetual reelection?
As always, when trying to understand the depths of politicians' and government incompetence, you cannot make this stuff up.

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