The News Sentinel is reporting that Knox County computer systems were breached the night of the primary. It was a two stage attack, complete with with a distraction. Here is the short version.
First, the website to report election results came under a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. The bad guys sent more traffic to it than it could handle. This is remarkably easy to do today, as multiple services on the dark web will allow you to purchase attacks against websites of your choice. This attack, while real, wasn’t the target, it was just meant to draw IT’s attention away from the core infrastructure and servers.
Sword and Shield, a Knoxville based security company, was contracted to investigate the incident. Their official report says that logs indicate an attempt to access the database sitting behind the webserver. Further testing revealed that there was a security hole that was active on election night, although it would not have been possible to tamper with the election results remotely.
Double staged attacks like this are very common today: as noted above it’s easy to start a DDoS attack against a website, which is highly noticeable. It quickly draws away the top level talent in an organization to deal with it while hackers attempt to quietly infiltrate in a different route. It’s the digital equivalent of setting a paper bag on fire on the front porch and then going and breaking in the basement window. The fire is meant to be noticed.
It’s fortunate that the election results were not tampered with, and the Knox County appears to have done a great job designing the voting system to make hacking it very difficult. This would be a good time for them to look at prevention on website attacks as well.
Consumer backup provider Backblaze has released their quarterly hard drive performance report. This report is always notable because it is the largest ongoing study across a variety of non-enterprise hard drives. In other words: it measures what matters.
The #1 takeaway for us? HGST comes out looking really good compared to Seagate and Western Digital (even though Western Digital owns HGST). The 12TB Seagate and 8TB HGST have higher failure rates than we’d want to see for what we assume are newer drives.
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ZDNet reports that Atlanta budgeted approximately $2.6 million to recover from their ransomeware incident earlier this year.
This is a small figure as far as ransomeware recovery goes. It excludes the cost of lost productivity, not just city employees but anyone who couldn’t get work done that day because of the incident. Think of contractors, plumbers, etc. waiting on permits, anyone trying to file business taxes, etc. The true cost of the incident to the city is something far north of the reported figure.
It’s also a clear example of why all organizations need backup now, not later, emergency plans for incidents like this, including how to recover when you get hit. Finally, until you’ve tested your backup and recovery procedures you can’t be sure that they work.
This afternoon one of our technicians was chatting with a legitimate support rep from a well-known vendor. The support rep correctly said that he could not help with the issue over web chat but to call 855-785-2511. When our technician called it was clearly a scam company behind the operation:
- They wanted to charge for free support
- They wanted to use remote tools that this vendor does not use
- They didn’t have a clue on how to solve the issue
This post exists just to serve as a warning to others that 855-785-2511 is clearly a scam phone number.