August 14, 2022

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Nation-state espionage group breaches Alaska Department of Health


Enlarge / If Alaska’s native Ursus arctos inhabitants may very well be enlisted for cyber protection patrols, attackers would possibly must paws for reflection earlier than committing a legal breach.

Last week, Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) disclosed a safety breach apparently made by a classy nation state-level attacker.

According to DHSS—which contracted with well-known safety agency Mandiant to analyze the breach—the attackers gained a foothold inside DHSS’ community through certainly one of its public-facing web sites, from which it pivoted to deeper assets.

A months-long saga

This shouldn’t be the primary report of the DHSS breach. The group first publicly introduced the intrusion on May 18, with a June replace asserting a multipronged investigation, and another in August on completion of the primary of three investigatory steps.

In the August replace, DHSS disclosed that Mandiant—a subset of bigger infosec agency FireEye—accomplished its preliminary investigation and concluded that the intrusion was a direct, subtle assault quite than a easy drive-by ransomware infestation. “The type of group behind this disruptive attack is a very serious operation with advanced capabilities,” stated DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum.

According to DHSS Technology Officer Scott McCutcheon, the attackers had been each superior and chronic: “This was not a ‘one-and-done’ situation, but rather a sophisticated attack intended to be carried out undetected over a prolonged period. The attackers took steps to maintain that long-term access even after they were detected.”

The majority of the technical element supplied by Alaska DHSS got here within the August replace—final week’s notification as an alternative involved the assault’s impression on Alaskan residents.

Data leaked, and Alaskan response

A safety monitoring agency performing proactive surveillance first seen indicators of an intrusion on May 2. Alaska’s Office of Information Technology (Security Office) notified DHSS of unauthorized laptop entry on May 5, after which DHSS studies it instantly shut down methods to disclaim attackers additional entry to protected knowledge.

During that (no less than) three-day window, attackers doubtlessly had entry to non-public knowledge, a few of which constitutes breach of each HIPAA and the Alaska Personal Information Protection Act (APIPA). The variety of people concerned within the assault remains to be unknown, as is precisely what knowledge could have been exfiltrated—however the attackers doubtlessly had entry to “any data stored on the department’s information technology infrastructure,” together with however not restricted to the next:

  • Full names
  • Dates of beginning
  • Social Security numbers
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Internal figuring out numbers (case studies, protected service studies, Medicaid, and many others.)
  • Health data
  • Financial data
  • Historical data regarding an individual’s interplay with DHSS

In response, the state of Alaska is providing free credit score monitoring to “any concerned Alaskan.” All Alaskan residents who’ve utilized for a Permanent Fund Dividend will obtain an e-mail notification describing the breach and providing a code for the free credit-monitoring service. Concerned Alaskans who don’t obtain an emailed code might want to contact a toll-free hotline that will likely be accessible on the DHSS website starting Tuesday, September 21.



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