Report: Cyber-attacks against federal agencies up 40 percent

The number of attacks on federal government networks rose 40 percent last year according to a new White House report on cybersecurity.

Federal agencies reported 41,776 attacks in fiscal 2010 after seeing 30,000 the previous year, according to the Office of Management and Budget's annual report on implementation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

"Malicious code through multiple means (e.g., phishing, virus, logic bomb) continues to be the most widely used attack approach," states the report. Phishing refers to luring consumers into inputting their personal or financial information by mimicking e-mails and websites from trusted businesses.

Roughly 31 percent of the incidents were attempts to introduce malicious code into federal networks. Almost 14 percent were attempts at unauthorized access while attempted scans or probes accounted for another 11 percent.

The annual reported is mandated by FISMA, which governs how federal agencies must secure their networks. The law is widely considered outdated and overly focused on compliance rather than the active monitoring and blockage of threats.

The report comes the same week that Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) introduced a comprehensive cybersecurity bill that includes an overhaul of FISMA. The Senate Homeland Security Committee has pushed for a similar measure as part of its cybersecurity legislation.

The report's findings also correspond with testimony this week from National Security Agency and Cyber Command boss Gen. Keith Alexander, who said enemies of the U.S. now have the ability to cause physical damage using a cyber-attack.