Home DAS & In Building Wireless U.S. officials suspect Russian hackers attacked federal agencies

U.S. officials suspect Russian hackers attacked federal agencies

Break-ins highlight the need for CRE owners to deploy wireless networks that aren’t just fast, but also secure.

The United States government announced this week that it suspected Russian hackers broke into several key government networks, according to The New York Times and other news outlets. The Treasury and Commerce Departments’ email systems were among the ones government officials suspect were accessed. Officials also noted that the attack was one of the biggest and most sophisticated on federal systems in the last past five years. It was also suspected that national security-related agencies were targeted, but it’s unknown if any systems had highly classified materials.

“The U.S. government is aware of these reports, and we are taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues related to this situation,” John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement.

The Commerce Department said one of its agencies was affected, but did not disclose which one. It appears the National Telecommunications and Information Administration department was the affected department however, according to The New York Times. This department helps determine policy for Internet-related issues such as creating standards and blocking technology imports and exports that are deemed national security risks.

The suspected attack led to widespread panic through the Department of Homeland Security’s federal offices on Sunday night. It ordered all agencies to stopping using a piece of network management software that was installed on government agencies’ and American corporations’ networks. The request came too late to stop the attack, which was likely going on for months. Hackers entered a malign code when the broke into the software’s periodic automatic software updates, similar to what a smartphone does overnight.

SolarWinds, the company that created the network management software, believes the intrusions started during the spring. That means the attacks could have been going on undetected for a better part of 2020, but it’s unknown how many email or other systems they got into. The hackers’ motive for going after the Treasury and Commerce Departments is unclear at this time, according to people familiar with the matter.

Significance of the hack for CRE

The news of this cyber attack is alarming on a couple of fronts. First, if the National Telecommunications and Information Administration was one of the agencies affected, it could be a cause for concern for any decision-making around the Internet and technology going forward. This agency sets the standards for Internet-related issues and can block imports and exports of tech if it’s deemed a security risk. If it makes this determination about another country’s technology, there’s always the chance that country could retaliate with a cyber attack if it’s able to do so.

Another reason awareness of this attack is important hits a little closer to home for commercial real estate owners. If the U.S. Government’s networks and systems can be hacked, so could any CRE building. The onus will be on CRE owners and tenants to ensure their networks are secure—especially if they have a lot of private data like financial information being transmitted.
Over the last few years, location is the only factor that matters more to most tenants than reliable connectivity. However, it’s not enough for the network to be reliable from a connectivity standpoint—it also needs to be secure. It now becomes imperative that with all of the new IoT devices, tenant amenity platforms and SaaS offerings that in-building networks of all kinds be secure. So as building owners are installing their wireless network, they must remember that security is just as, if not more, important as reliability and speed.

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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