It appears that a U.S. defense agency responsible for secure communications was hacked in mid-2019. The Defense Information Systems Agency, a combat support agency for the Department of Defense, is responsible for secure communications for the president and other important officials, and it employs over 8,000 people.
The data that was breached may include people's Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. The agency sent letters to those who may have been affected to let them know about the breach. DISA spokesperson Charles Prichard told TechCrunch they're not aware of the information being misused.
"The Defense Information Systems Agency has begun issuing letters to people whose personally identifiable information may have been compromised in a data breach on a system hosted by the agency... While there is no evidence to suggest that any of the potentially compromised PII was misused, DISA policy requires the agency to notify individuals whose personal data may have been compromised," Prichard said. "DISA has conducted a thorough investigation of this incident and taken appropriate measures to secure the network."
If you're reading this news and thinking that the government seems to get hacked a lot, you wouldn't be wrong. Though we don't know exactly how often these agencies successfully fend off cyberattacks, it does seem like there's news of another hack on a regular basis.
One of the biggest U.S. government that's ever happened shocked the country in 2015. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management was hacked, and the sensitive information of over 21 million people was exposed. A Wired article from 2016 claims that office "repels 10 million attempted digital intrusions per month."
That's just one of the major offices in the federal government, so you can imagine how often the government is fending off hacks overall. U.S. infrastructure has been hacked by Russia, North Korea and other countries. One of these countries could probably disrupt our power grid or even cause a dam to malfunction, but that'd probably be seen as an act of war.
The federal government has been trying to keep up with cybersecurity and prevent these types of hacks from happening, but sometimes it lags on updating its security systems, and there's always the possibility of human error allowing a breach. Back in 2016, while Russian hacking was the big story, former director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John P. Holdren wrote about the challenges the government has been facing in a document called the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan.
"While the United States is increasingly dependent upon cyberspace, cybersecurity has not kept pace with the increase in cyber threats. Advances in cybersecurity science and engineering are urgently needed to preserve the Internet’s societal and economic benefits and establish a position of assurance, strength, and trust for cyber systems and professionals," Holdren wrote.
As Holdren said, the government is only getting more and more online by the year, so it's unlikely it's ever going to see a time when hacks are going to stop happening. Their job would probably be a little easier if the president of the United States didn't use an unsecured phone.