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Data breach at the Federal Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)

Data breach at the Federal Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)

The DISA, an agency for the Department of Defense (DoD) that provides direct telecommunications and IT support for senior members of the U.S. Federal government, reported a data breach on one of its systems two weeks ago. Details of the incident still lack; the DISA has not released an official statement, though a Pentagon spokesperson responded to inquiries through email.


What we do know

A letter sent February 11 stated that between May and July 2019 personally identifiable information (PII) may have been compromised in a data breach. Possible exposed PII includes social security numbers; a private contractor posted the letter on Twitter, suggesting that the DISA has experienced more than one breach. The DISA employs ~ 8,000 military and civilian personnel as well as private contractors. Reports suggest those affected could be upward of 200,000 people though the actual amount remains unclear. Charles Pritchard, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, acknowledged the breach in an email: “While there is no evidence to suggest that any of the potentially compromised [PII] was misused, DISA policy requires the agency to notify individuals whose personal data may have been compromised.” DISA will give all possible impacted individuals access to free credit monitoring. In the letter, Roger Grenwell, DISA’s chief risk officer and chief information officer, further stated that “additional measures” were put into place to prevent future incidents and protect PII. No other information—including the breach type or if it was a classified system—is known at this time.


Why this is a concern

While the DISA states no data has been misused, those within the cybersecurity community are concerned. First, what might these attacks on a federal communications agency mean in the long run? Second, could these threat actors work on behalf of another nation-state? Cyberattacks on governmental agencies are nothing new but seem to have increased, particularly with the 2020 U.S. elections.

Related: Puerto Rican Government Hit By Phishing Scheme

Unfortunately, this breach, as well as a 2018 DoD breach of travel records, demonstrate that cyberattacks will not stop. In fact, a 2019 report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found that eight federal agencies are at risk of a cyberattack as they do not comply with federal safety standards.


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