Data breaches involving important military data are rare, but in 2008 the U.S. Central Command saw sensitive government information compromised. According to new information, the data breach was the result of a USB drive inserted into government computers in the Middle East by a foreign intelligence agency, technology publication Computer World reports. The device was uploaded with malware that spread to different defense system servers.
Foreign Affairs magazine said that the breach caused the exposure of both classified and unclassified documents and allowed them to be transferred to domains controlled by foreign entities. According to the publication, the breach was the most serious data compromise in the history of the U.S. military. As a result, the Pentagon is currently developing a new cyber-security infrastructure in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security to better protect government networks.
According to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, more than 100 foreign entities attempt to hack into military security systems each day.
Although the breach was specific to military databases, the instance highlights the need to develop better security systems for both government entities and businesses that deal with consumer information. Over the years, millions of consumers have seen their personal information compromised as a direct result of non-secure computer systems at hospitals, banks, insurance companies and universities.
"It brings to life what we have all feared for a long time from the small little holes in the dike that can really open up big problems," Deloitte Consulting analyst J.R. Reagen told Computer World.
A recent Verizon report - released in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service - stressed the importance of consumer involvement in protecting the information they release to companies. For example, consumers should be more diligent about inquiring into their bank's cyber-security and only providing the most necessary information needed to retain services.
Consumers can also protect themselves by signing up for a credit monitoring service, which will alert them to any new accounts opened under their name or any changes made to their credit file. Credit monitoring and regularly examining their credit reports for inaccuracies or suspicious accounts is an important step in reducing an individual's risk of identity theft and fraud.