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CIA Director: Email Hack a Reminder of Increasing Cyber Vulnerability

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By Amanda Vicinanzo
HSToday

Several weeks ago, the FBI and Secret Service launched an investigation into a report claiming  a 13-year-old American high school student hacked into the AOL email account of CIA Director John Brennan, exposing sensitive information.

Security experts are warning that the attack, which occurred in the middle of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, speaks to the current state of cybersecurity in America. Despite the increasing number of damaging, high profile data breaches, organizations and government agencies continue to fall victim to both sophisticated attacks and simpler ones like the breach of Brennan’s email account.

“As compared to other recent attacks, this particular attack could be considered less sophisticated,’ Kurt Rohloff, a cyber security expert and professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology, told Homeland Security Today. “I believe it speaks to the current of cybersecurity in America and that with the vast number of Internet users and the vast number of online accounts we all have, even relatively simple attacks will at times be successful, and we need to always remain vigilant.”

The teenage hacker allegedly tricked Verizon into giving him access to Brennan’s email account. While clever, the attack did not utilize sophisticated computer skills or hacking techniques. In the wake of the breach, WikiLeaks began publishing documents stolen from the account. The private documents contained sensitive information, including social security numbers, contact information and the personal information of US intelligence officials.

Speaking about the matter for the first time on Tuesday at a George Washington University conference co-sponsored by the CIA, Brennan expressed outrage over the publication of the sensitive data, and scolded media outlets for suggesting impropriety on his part.

“I think sometimes there is this ever-present thirst for trying to make something sexier and also blow it up more than it is, and also giving air to what is criminal activity and propagating information,” Brennan said. “I think that was inappropriate by some.”

Brennan also said the incident shows everyone is at risk on the Internet. The hack highlights the importance of keeping pace with the increasingly skilled cyber actors who intend to cause harm.

“What it does is to underscore just how vulnerable people are to those who want to cause harm,” Brennan said. “And so I think it does epitomize, in many respects, what we have to deal with in this increasingly modern and interconnected world. It’s a reality of the 21st century.”

Read the full article at HSToday.

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