In the last 12 months, US agencies have suffered catastrophic data loss at the hands of the Chinese. Now, Raytheon has won a five-year, $1 billion dollar contract to protect the US’s infrastructure from future cyber attacks. The huge cyber security contract has been awarded to Raytheon by the Department of Homeland Security who hopes the reputable firm can put an end to the embarrassing losses that the nation has recently suffered.
Just last week, new statistics emerged about the scope of the hack that occurred at the Office of Personnel Management. The agency is now admitting that the original quote of 1.1 million stolen fingerprint scans was massively incorrect. The newly revealed stats now show that amongst the 21.5 million people’s details that were stolen by Chinese government hackers – mainly personal details such as Social Security numbers – a staggering 5.6 million fingerprint scans were also taken.
Adding to those worries, the US today announced that it is withdrawing its spies from China amongst fears that some of the data stolen from the Office of Personnel Management may allow secret agents to be identified. The US, unfortunately, now believes that embassy employee data (from a questionnaire known as SF86) could be scrutinized to reveal agents working for the CIA, NSA and DIA.
The SF86 form is used for security clearances and contains information that could allow the Chinese to use a process of elimination to identify agents. This latest revelation only adds to the severity of the hack, which can be safely said to be the worst of its kind ever suffered by a Western government agency.
On Tuesday, Senator John McCain, R-Ariz, reinforced the need for good cyber protection. At a conference in Washington, he commented that in the last year China, Russia, Iran and North Korea have all hit the US with cyber attacks. This increase in attacks, McCain said was ‘crippling or severely disrupting networks across the government and private sector and compromising sensitive national security information.’ For this reason, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said he was actively considering introducing a select committee on cybersecurity affairs.
‘We actually have done almost nothing in the area of cyber in the Pentagon, I intend to really focus a lot of the attention of the committee on the issue of cyber, and have been playing around with the idea of maybe we need a select committee,’ said McCain
With such frank remarks coming from such high places, it is clear that Raytheon have got no easy task ahead of them. However, the Department of Homeland Security hopes that the billion dollar contract will go some way to shoring up, what has so far been a far too easily penetrated government agency infrastructure. All in all, Raytheon will be charged with protecting data within 100 federal civilian agencies. While, in keeping with Obama’s promise to make cyber security a priority, the Pentagon will also take heed of McCain’s words to determine new and more robust methods of stopping hackers (who often only have to find one small weakness in otherwise well-designed firewalls).
In Raytheon’s statement announcing the contract, president of the firm Dave Wajsgras said that between 2009 and 2014 cyber attacks had increased by about 66%. “Today’s cyber threats are increasingly pervasive and serious, and our government and private sector institutions require the best protection possible,” he commented.
Raytheon has recently invested $3.5 billion in its cyber security department, expanding its 30,000 square foot Washington cyber center. The firm is also a finalist in a $2 million competition being run by the Pentagon’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The competition sees firms battling their latest technology to automatically detect and fix vulnerabilities.