Verizon, water agency targeted in Chinese cyber espionage campaign: report

Verizon, water agency targeted in Chinese cyber espionage campaign: report
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Verizon and one of the country’s largest water agencies were reportedly among the groups targeted in the hack of Pulse Connect Secure devices that was blamed on China and came to light in April.

Verizon told The Associated Press that it had found a Pulse-related data breach in one of its labs but added that it was quickly isolated and that no data or customer information was believed to have been stolen.

A spokesman for the telecommunications giant, Rich Young, said, “We know that bad actors try to compromise our systems.”

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“That is why internet operators, private companies and all individuals need to be vigilant in this space," he added, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said that it had found a compromised Pulse Secure appliance after the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued its April alert announcing that hackers had breached multiple government agencies and other critical organizations using vulnerabilities in Pulse Secure technologies.

Rebecca Kimitch, a spokeswoman for the agency that provides water to 19 million people and runs some of the largest plants in the world, said the impacted appliance was immediately removed and that there was “no known data exfiltration,” the AP reported.

The Pulse Secure hack is one in a series of attacks that have prompted lawmakers and other elected officials to raise concerns about the integrity of U.S. cybersecurity systems. Those attacks include the SolarWinds hacking campaign believed to have been carried out by Russian actors and one last month on the Colonial Pipeline that led the major fuel source to temporarily shut down, prompting a gas shortage and mass panic across the country. 

CISA said in April that it had been assisting agencies impacted by the Pulse Secure hack for weeks, adding that the company’s Utah-based owner, Ivanti, was developing a patch for the vulnerabilities used by hackers. 

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In a statement to The Hill on Tuesday, Ivanti said that the Pulse secure team “worked closely with affected customers over the past months to mitigate these issues quickly and effectively.” 

“Increasingly sophisticated and aggressive threat actors are attacking various technologies, and we are committed to identifying and blocking threats against our solutions,” the company added. “We will continue to work tirelessly with third-party security experts, Homeland Security, law enforcement and other government agencies to protect our customers and collaborate with the broader security industry.”

However, Charles Carmakal, the chief technology officer of Mandiant, whose company first revealed the hacking campaign in April, told the AP on Tuesday that it was concerning that the “threat actors were able to get access to some really high-profile organizations, some really well-protected ones.”