Web system organization targeted by hackers

Hackers have targeted the global nonprofit organization responsible for managing the back end of the Internet.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced early on Wednesday that it believes its staffers were targeted by a hacking campaign that began late last month.

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The little-known nonprofit organization is responsible for coordinating website domain names on the Internet, so typing in a URL address leads a Web surfer to their intended site. The group is currently in the process of rolling out more than 1,000 new top-level domains that would add new possibilities after the “dot” in a website, such .store or .talk instead of .com or .org.

ICANN’s responsibility for the critical back end of the Web is granted by a contract from the U.S. government that is renewed every two years. The Obama administration caused a stir earlier this year by announcing plans to cede oversight of the system allowing Internet addresses to work. 

The new hack could lead to new trouble for that effort, since Republicans and other critics of the proposal have already opposed the idea of relinquishing the U.S.’s historic role overseeing the system.

In an announcement on Wednesday, ICANN said it noticed early this month that a “spear phishing” attack on some employees had allowed hackers to gain access to administrative files containing domain operators’ names, addresses and phone numbers, as well as other sites.

Systems relating to the operation of the Web address system have not been impacted, ICANN said.

“Earlier this year, ICANN began a program of security enhancements in order to strengthen information security for all ICANN systems,” ICANN said, which it believes helped to “limit the unauthorized access obtained in the attack.”

“Since discovering the attack, we have implemented additional security measures,” ICANN added.