Mark Collins – How Cyber-Vulnerable US Government and Others (Canada)? Juniper Networks’ Backdoors

Pretty yikey:

1) The big picture:

First on CNN: Newly discovered hack has U.S. fearing foreign infiltration

A major breach at computer network company Juniper Networks [website here] 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…

Juniper sells computer network equipment and routers to big companies and to U.S. government clients such as the Defense Department, Justice Department, FBI and Treasury Department. On its website, the company boasts of providing networks that “US intelligence agencies require.”

Its routers and network equipment are widely used by corporations, including for secure communications. Homeland Security officials are now trying to determine how many such systems are in use for U.S. government networks [AND CANADA? government and private? by the way Juniper has a presence in Ottawa and they certainly are trying to get federal government contracts including lobbying CSE (!!!) and the Prime Minister’s Office (!!!)– scroll down to “Who is being lobbied“–indeed it looks like they are already selling to the government, see near end of the post]…

2) Juniper itself:

Secret Code Found in Juniper’s Firewalls Shows Risk of Government Backdoors

Encryption backdoors have been a hot topic in the last few years—and the controversial issue got even hotter after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, when it dominated media headlines. It even came up during this week’s Republican presidential candidate debate. But despite all the attention focused on backdoors lately, no one noticed that someone had quietly installed backdoors three years ago in a core piece of networking equipment used to protect corporate and government systems around the world.

On Thursday [Dec. 17], tech giant Juniper Networks revealed in a startling announcement that it had found “unauthorized” code embedded in an operating system running on some of its firewalls. 

The code, which appears to have been in multiple versions of the company’s ScreenOS software going back to at least August 2012, would have allowed attackers to take complete control of Juniper NetScreen firewalls running the affected software. It also would allow attackers, if they had ample resources and skills, to separately decrypt encrypted traffic running through the Virtual Private Network, or VPN, on the firewalls

3) Canada (note comment for a private sector initiative):

Canadian Federal Government (and others) Not Cyber Serious

And note that Juniper Networks is in fact on this Canadian government “List of Qualified Suppliers with PWGSC Contracting Officers”, scroll down to No. 42 (h/t Denise).

Theme song for post:

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


4 thoughts on “Mark Collins – How Cyber-Vulnerable US Government and Others (Canada)? Juniper Networks’ Backdoors”

  1. And note these vulnerabilities (further links at original):

    U.S. power grid alert: Iranian hackers accessed the control system of a small dam just outside of New York City back in 2013, the Wall Street Journal reports. “These systems control the flow in pipelines, the movements of drawbridges and water releases from dams. A hacker could theoretically cause an explosion, a flood or a traffic jam…The still-classified dam intrusion illustrates a top concern for U.S. officials as they enter an age of digital state-on-state conflict.”

    Indeed, “About a dozen times in the last decade, sophisticated foreign hackers have gained enough remote access to control the operations networks that keep the lights on,” the AP reports in their own investigation into the vulnerabilities of the U.S. power grid. “As Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged in an interview, however, ‘we are not where we need to be’ on cybersecurity. That’s partly because the grid is largely privately owned and has entire sections that fall outside federal regulation, which experts argue leaves the industry poorly defended against a growing universe of hackers seeking to access its networks.” More here…’

    Mark Collins

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