Fed still gauging extent of hacker breach, FBI on case

Thu Feb 7, 2013 6:04pm EST

A view shows the Federal Reserve building on the day it is scheduled to release minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee from August 1, 2012, in Washington August 22, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

A view shows the Federal Reserve building on the day it is scheduled to release minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee from August 1, 2012, in Washington August 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve said on Thursday it was still working to determine the extent that its computer systems had been breached by hackers, adding that the incident was the subject of a criminal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"We are in the process of a comprehensive assessment to determine what information might have been obtained in this incident," said Federal Reserve spokesman Jim Strader. "We remain confident that this incident did not affect critical operations of the Federal Reserve," he said.

The online intrusion, which has embarrassed the U.S. central bank and raised questions about the effectiveness of its security, was publicized on Sunday by activist group Anonymous.

The integrity of the Fed's systems is vital to ensure confidence in its ability to securely transmit highly confidential information, including communications about U.S. monetary policy and the banks that it supervises.

Anonymous claimed that it had published personal information from more than 4,000 U.S. bank executives gleaned from a password-protected Fed website.

The website, called the Emergency Communication System (ECS), exists to provide bank contact information in the event of a natural or other disaster. It is managed by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.

A message sent by the Fed to ECS users and obtained by Reuters on Tuesday warned that personal information, including mobile and business telephone numbers, email and business addresses, had been obtained by the online intruders.

Strader said it was possible that more information might still be released by the hackers, but declined to spell out if data from a site other than the ECS had been obtained.

"This incident is the subject of an active criminal investigation with the FBI and we cannot comment further," he said.

The Fed also declined to comment on when the attack took place, how long it took for the breach to be discovered, and what type of system or vulnerability was exploited.

(Reporting by Alister Bull in Washington, Jim Finkle in Boston and Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, N.C.; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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