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Forum Post: U.S agency kills hardware over routine malware warning

Posted 9 months ago on July 12, 2013, 10:02 p.m. EST by renesmeeabney (0)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Source: http://www.itworldcanada.com/news/u-s-agency-kills-hardware-over-routine-malware-warning/147365

The U.S. Economic Development Administration destroyed $170,000 in computers, keyboards, printers and mice over a routine malware infection. A lack of funding prevented the agency from throwing out its remaining $3 million in IT inventory An almost farcical series of miscommunications led to the destruction of $170,000 worth of IT gear by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration over a routine malware warning, and it was only a lack of budget that stopped the agency from throwing out another $3 million in hardware.

The comedy of errors not only points up a lack of communication between agencies, but also a fundamental misunderstanding of technology.

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The timeline of the fiasco runs something like this:

  • In December 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (those guys who told the entire North American population to disable Java on its computers) warns the Commerce Department of a potential compromise of its systems.

  • The Commerce Department identifies the potentially compromised computers as belonging to the Economic Development Administration. Its warning to the EDA names accidentally names 146 systems as being compromised, when in fact, the number is only two.

  • A follow-up warning tells the EDA that only two systems are compromised, but in classic CYA fashion, does not clearly point out that the first warning was erroneous.

  • The EDA treats the follow-up as a confirmation of the first warning and proceeds on the understanding that 146 systems are compromised. The EDA commissions a forensic analysis of the two systems identified by Commerce and confirms that they are infected with malware.

  • Commerce tells the EDA to reimage the systems. The EDA replies that the problem is too widespread. Commerce assumes that the forensic analysis uncovered more compromised systems.

  • Fearing rampant malware and possible nation-state attack, EDA's chief information officer disconnects the systems from the network.

  • Paranoid of persistent threats in the system, the EDA begins destroying hardware. About $170,00 worth of computers, printers, keyboards and computer mice are taken out of commission (keyboards? mice?) even though an independent analysis identifies only minor and easily fixed problems.

  • The EDA runs out of funding before it can destroy its $3 million in remaining technology assets.

  • At the end of the day, the EDA has spent half of its 2012 budget -- or about $2.7 million -- recovering from a minor malware infection.



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[-] 1 points by TroubledMind (10) 9 months ago


When were the scrapped computers manufactured?

What was the fair market value and book (accounting and tax) value of these computers?

Did these computers have enough memory and other resources necessary for the operation of antivirus security software? (If they did not then this could explain why an effort was not made to "reimage" them as recommended by the Department of Commerce).

Were the disposed computers a legacy system that was no longer used as they were fully (or partially) replaced by a new system more than a year ago?

(Or worse yet) Were the disposed computers a legacy system that should have been fully replaced by a new system more than a year ago (but were kept too long in an effort to save the taxpayers’ money)?

If these computers were purchased and installed ten years ago then their collective fair market value was zero even if they originally cost (or had a book value) of $170,000. Furthermore, computers that are ten years old (or older) may not have the system requirements (memory, disk space and processor speed) that are required to install and use antivirus software.

The news article that was cited does not seem to answer any of these questions. Maybe these computers (and other equipment) were merely old junk that should have been gotten rid of regardless of whether they were infected with viruses and malware.

Out of curiosity I’ve searched for some other news articles about this situation and here is an interesting statement from Arstechnica:

Source: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/07/us-agency-baffled-by-modern-technology-destroys-mice-to-get-rid-of-viruses/

“The total cost to the taxpayer of this incident was $2.7 million: $823,000 went to the security contractor for its investigation and advice, $1,061,000 for the acquisition of temporary infrastructure (requisitioned from the Census Bureau), $4,300 to destroy $170,500 in IT equipment, and $688,000 paid to contractors to assist in development of a long-term response. Full recovery took close to a year.”

So I guess that a significant amount of the money spent was fees to the security contractor in order to provide baby talking (“investigation and advice”). Also, a little over a million dollars was spent purchasing used ("requisitioned") computer equipment ("infrastructure") from the Census Bureau.

It seems to me that the $170,500 in scrapped IT equipment may have been old junk that was kept longer than it should have been and that the government is trying to save money by using the disused computers from the Census Bureau.

The real scandal that I see is the excessive consulting fees paid to the private contractor for “investigation,” “advice,” and help in formulating “a long-term response.”


[-] 1 points by OccupyNews (1152) 9 months ago

So they never picked up the phone and talked to each other? What if it had been a spoofed email?