Unspecified foreigners and a third unknown person or group are to blame for three computer hacks over the past three years at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to a new report.
The body that governs America's nuclear power providers said in an internal investigation that two of the hacks are suspected to have come from unnamed foreign countries, the news site Nextgovreported based on a Freedom of Information Act request. The source of the third hack could not be identified because the logs of the incident had been destroyed, the report said.
Hackers, often sponsored by foreign governments, have targeted the US more frequently in recent years. A report (PDF) on attacks against government computers noted that there was a 35 percent increase between 2010 and 2013.
Intruders used common hacking techniques to get at the NRC's computers. One attack linked to a foreign country or individual involved phishing emails that coerced NRC employees into submitting their login credentials. The second one linked to a foreign government or individual used spearphishing, or emails targeted at specific NRC employees, to convince them to click a link that led to a malware site hosted on Microsoft's cloud storage site SkyDrive, now called OneDrive.
The third attack involved breaking into the personal account of a NRC employee. After sending a malicious PDF attachment to 16 other NRC employees, one person was infected with malware.
NRC spokesman David McIntyre said that the NRC computer security team "detects and thwarts" most hacking attempts.
"The few attempts documented in the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) cyber crimes unit report as gaining some access to NRC networks were detected and appropriate measures were taken," he said.
The NRC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.