The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks as part of an extensive espionage operation that has affected at least half a dozen federal agencies, officials directly familiar with the matter said.
On Thursday, DOE and NNSA officials began coordinating notifications about the breach to their congressional oversight bodies after being briefed by Rocky Campione, the chief information officer at DOE.
They found suspicious activity in networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington, the Office of Secure Transportation at NNSA, and the Richland Field Office of the DOE.
The hackers have been able to do more damage at FERC than the other agencies, and officials there have evidence of highly malicious activity, the officials said, but did not elaborate.
The officials said that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which has been helping to manage the federal response to the broad hacking campaign, indicated to FERC this week that CISA was overwhelmed and might not be able to allocate the necessary resources to respond. DOE will therefore be allocating extra resources to FERC to help investigate the hack, even though FERC is a semi-autonomous agency, the officials said.
Several top officials from CISA, including its former director Christopher Krebs, have either been pushed out by the Trump administration or resigned in recent weeks.
Federal investigators have been combing through networks in recent days to determine what hackers had been able to access and/or steal, and officials at DOE still don’t know whether the attackers were able to access anything, the people said, noting that the investigation is ongoing and they may not know the full extent of the damage “for weeks.”
I don’t know about you, but I consider the optimal level of hacking of the US government’s command and control of several thousand nuclear weapons to be “none.”