Days after Lockheed Martin disclosed a cyber-attack on its networks, reports emerged that two more major defense contractors have also been affected.
defense contractor appears to have been hit by a cyber-attack, and a leaked
memo indicates company executives believe attackers used information stolen
from RSA Security earlier this year. If true, RSA's SecurID technology may be
major defense contractor L-3 Communications Holdings by spoofing pass codes
from a cloned RSA SecurID token, Reuters reported May 27. The attackers may
have used a similar method to target another defense contractor, Lockheed
Martin, on May 21. The second-largest U.S. defense contractor Northrop Grumman
may also have been hacked, as
the company shut down remote access to its network without warning on May 26,
according to Fox News.
was formed out of 10 business units that had been spun off by Lockheed prior to
its merger with Martin Marietta in 1995. L-3 is a major supplier of
communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology to the
Department of Defense.
Communications has been actively targeted with penetration attacks leveraging
the compromised information," an L-3 executive wrote April 6 in an
internal memo obtained by Wired
It's not clear
from the internal email whether attackers managed to actually break into L-3
networks, or if they were detected in the midst of the attack. The memo also
did not specify exactly why or how L-3 came to the conclusion that the SecurID
two-factor authentication system was at fault. An L-3 spokesperson just said
the company takes security seriously and that the incident has been resolved.
admitted March 17 that
cyber-attackers had breached its network and obtained "information relating to
the SecurID technology." The company has steadfastly refused to publicly
discuss exactly what was stolen or when the breach actually occurred. RSA later
disclosed that it had been hit by a phishing email exploiting a zero-day
vulnerability in Adobe Reader.
At the time,
RSA executive chairman Art Coviello said the stolen information "could
potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor
authentication implementation as part of a broader attack."
For someone to
break into a SecurID-protect network, the attacker would need at least one
employee's user name and pass code as well as have some idea of which services
that employee had access to.
details of these attacks are not "fully known," it is likely that attackers
were able to install a keylogger somewhere within the network, according to Harry Sverdlove
, CTO of security firm Bit9.
The information captured and knowledge of RSA's token-generation algorithm
would give attackers a way to breach the network, Sverdlove said, noting that
this would be a "worst case scenario" for SecurID.
"It would mean
that a single point of attack can be used to defeat the dual-factor
authentication provided by the security tokens," Sverdlove said.
may have been installed on a remote system that connected to the network via a
VPN. This makes sense, since the "best bet" is to attack vulnerable endpoints,
or computers that are connecting remotely and are likely not under the direct
control of the organization's security policies.
Grumman does not comment on cyber-attacks against it, the company spokesperson
said. It's also unclear how Northrop Grumman was hit, as ComputerWorld
reported that the defense
contractor replaced all its SecurID tokens with tokens from a different vendor
"immediately" after the RSA breach.
shutdown at Northrop Grumman caught "even senior managers by surprise" and
caused chaos, according to the Fox News story. "We went through a domain name
and password reset across the entire organization," an unnamed source told
shut down remote access to its
internal network after a "significant and tenacious attack on its information
network" May 21. Technology blogger Robert Cringley had reported at the time
the breach involved RSA SecurID tokens that employees and contractors used to
log in to the VPN to gain access remotely to the corporate network.