Newly discovered hack has U.S. fearing foreign infiltration

Hack Code

Newly discovered hack has U.S. fearing foreign infiltration

A major breach at computer network company Juniper Networks has U.S. officials worried that hackers working for a foreign government were able to spy on the encrypted communications of the U.S. government and private companies for the past three years.

The FBI is investigating the breach, which involved hackers installing a back door on computer equipment, U.S. officials told CNN. Juniper disclosed the issue Thursday along with an emergency security patch that it urged customers to use to update their systems “with the highest priority.”

The concern, U.S. officials said, is that sophisticated hackers who compromised the equipment could use their access to get into any company or government agency that used it.

One U.S. official described it as akin to “stealing a master key to get into any government building.”

The breach is believed to be the work of a foreign government, U.S. officials said, because of the sophistication involved. The U.S. officials said they are certain U.S. spy agencies themselves aren’t behind the back door. China and Russia are among the top suspected governments, though officials cautioned the investigation hasn’t reached conclusions.

It’s not yet clear what if any classified information could be affected, but U.S. officials said the Juniper Networks equipment is so widely used that it may take some time to determine what damage was done.

A senior administration official told CNN, “We are aware of the vulnerabilities recently announced by Juniper. The Department of Homeland Security has been and remains in close touch with the company. The administration remains committed to enhancing our national cybersecurity by raising our cyber defenses, disrupting adversary activity, and effectively responding to incidents when they occur.”

Juniper Networks’ security fix is intended to seal a back door that hackers created in order to remotely log into commonly used VPN networks to spy on communications that were supposed to be among the most secure.

Juniper said that someone managed to get into its systems and write “unauthorized code” that “could allow a knowledgeable attacker to gain administrative access.”

Such access would allow the hacker to monitor encrypted traffic on the computer network and decrypt communications. READ MORE