By Alexandra Burlacu email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Feb 07, 2013 12:32 PM EST
The U.S.' central bank has confirmed that cyber criminals managed to steal information from its servers during a hack attack.
News of hacked Web sites, databases, servers, and systems seem to be surfacing increasingly often, as the digital age has brought with it numerous advances, but also plenty of malware.
The Federal Reserve told Reuters that it had contacted individuals whose personal information had been stolen. The new hack attack comes shortly after the hacktivist group called Anonymous published what it claimed to be the credential of 4,000 U.S. bank executives, reported ZDNet. The Fed, however, did not acknowledge whether the two incidents were related or not.
The document Anonymous published reportedly contains the names and workplaces of employees at numerous community banks, credit unions, as well as other lenders, and it even contains mobile phone numbers and what seems to be computer log-on names and passwords.
On the other hand, Reuters claimed that Fed had issued an internal report stating that "passwords were not compromised." The Fed reportedly suggested that the leaked document had in fact been a contact database designed for use during natural disasters.
"The Federal Reserve system is aware that information was obtained by exploiting a temporary vulnerability in a website vendor product," a Fed spokeswoman told Reuters. "Exposure was fixed shortly after discovery and is no longer an issue. The incident did not affect critical operations of the Federal Reserve system."
As the BBC points out, Hackers claiming to be part of the Anonymous collective have carried out a series of attacks over recent years, targeting U.S. government sites and organizations such as the U.S.-based intelligence company Stratfor.
Anonymous criticized Fed's economic policies and threatened to take action in this regards even from 2011, but the latest hack attack marks the first time the collective has actually claimed success at hacking the agency.
The hacktivist collective claimed that its alleged attack is part of wider protests regarding the suicide of Internet prodigy and activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide after being accused of illegally downloading content from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s network. Swartz had been charged with computer intrusion, fraud, and data theft. If he were found guilty, he could have faced up to 35 years in prison.
Following the controversy regarding Swartz's untimely death, Anonymous and others have required a change in anti-hacking laws. MIT's own systems have since faced a series of hack attacks, including breaches that resulted in redirecting visitors to a page saying "RIP Aaron Swartz."
On the other hand, the central bank's systems have been compromised before, so this is not a first-time incident. In 2010, a Malaysian hacker pleaded guilty to adding "malicious code" to the Fed's network using one of its regional banks.
The new breach comes less than three months after U.S. lawmakers failed to advance legislation for protecting computer networks considered critical to U.S. economic and national security. Needless to mention, compromising the core Federal Reserve systems could have ravaging consequences for the financial community.
The Fed gathers loads of sensitive financial disclosures for regulatory reasons. If a third-party ever got access to all of that information, the banking system overall would get a serious blow.