The Washington Post is reporting that the Economic Development Administration (EDA), an agency of the US Department of Commerce, has had its Internet access temporarily cut because of the discovery of a virus in its computer networks on January 20th. According to the Post, the agency decided "out of an abundance of caution" to isolate the EDA's network and keep its employees from accessing the Internet since the 24th of January.
The Post states that the agency, which helps generate and retain existing jobs, and stimulate industrial and commercial growth in economically troubled areas of the United States, set up a " temporary, bare bones Web site [that] is providing contact information for the small agency and data on federal funding opportunities."
The EDA's web site currently has this message displayed:
"EDA’s web site is experiencing a disruption in service. The agency is working to address the issue and resume normal operations asap."
The Post story says that the agency, which has 215 employees, doesn't know why it was targeted or what information was taken. It also doesn't seem to know when it will allow its employees to go back online.
The EDA's experience is similar to what happened in Canada about the same time last year. For more than six weeks, Canada's Treasury Board had to severely restrict access to the Internet by its employees because of a successful cyber phishing attack. The Post doesn't say how the virus got into EDA's network, but employee phishing is a good probability.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.