Congresswoman eyes McAfee briefing on cyber attacks

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:49pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congresswoman on Wednesday requested more information on security company McAfee's report detailing a five-year hacking campaign that breached 72 organizations globally.

Representative Mary Bono Mack, chairman of the House Commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over cybersecurity, said she was alarmed by the report on a slew of cyber attacks that McAfee has dubbed "Operation Shady RAT."

In a letter to Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research for McAfee and author of the report, Bono Mack requested a briefing with his research team and asked how the government and private sector could more effectively mitigate data breaches.

McAfee uncovered the biggest hacking campaign discovered to date, a multiyear campaign targeting governments, corporations, the United Nations, defense contractors and others. Its report, released last week, said a single "state actor" -- which the company did not identify -- seeking military, diplomatic and economic advantage was behind the attacks.

Intel Corp acquired McAfee, the world's No. 2 maker of security software after Symantec Corp, in a $7.68 billion deal earlier this year to help it offer customers using its chips more safety from hackers.

Bono Mack, in the letter, asked McAfee if it believed greater public disclosure of significant, potentially damaging breaches would help or harm efforts to curb cyber crime.

The congresswoman introduced legislation in July that would require companies that collect consumers' personal information to implement data security measures and notify consumers of data breaches.

Bono Mack also asked about the five-year hacking campaign's financial impact on the United States, and whether the company found evidence that consumers' sensitive or personal information was compromised.

The high-profile cyber attacks of recent months, including breaches of Sony Corp and the websites of the U.S. Senate and Central Intelligence Agency, are classified in McAfee's report as unsophisticated and opportunistic compared with the insidious intrusions of Operation Shady RAT.

Bono Mack's subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade has held several hearings on data security breaches, and is probing into cyber attacks' effects on consumers, international competitiveness and the U.S. economy.

In her letter to McAfee, she also sought a better understanding of what hackers consider to be a greater target: intellectual property and national security information or consumer information linked to identity theft.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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