Federal government

Federal Agency Disabled E-Mail System, Destroyed Hardware in Overreaction to Potential Malware Infection

Your government at work


The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is an agency in the Department of Commerce that promotes economic development in regions of the US suffering low growth, low employment, and other economic problems. In December 2011, the Department of Homeland Security notified both the EDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that there was a potential malware infection within the two agencies' systems.

The NOAA isolated and cleaned up the problem within a few weeks.

The EDA, however, responded by cutting its systems off from the rest of the world—disabling its enterprise e-mail system and leaving its regional offices no way of accessing centrally-held databases.

It then recruited in an outside security contractor to look for malware and provide assurances that not only were EDA's systems clean, but also that they were impregnable against malware. The contractor, after some initial false positives, declared the systems largely clean but was unable to provide this guarantee. Malware was found on six systems, but it was easily repaired by reimaging the affected machines.

EDA's CIO, fearing that the agency was under attack from a nation-state, insisted instead on a policy of physical destruction. The EDA destroyed not only (uninfected) desktop computers but also printers, cameras, keyboards, and even mice. The destruction only stopped—sparing $3 million of equipment—because the agency had run out of money to pay for destroying the hardware.

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  1. Everywhere I look the Obama administration appears to be hiding things. Think about this ridiculous manueuver; in my past experience you can’t get political appointees to take security seriously enough. They will normally try their best to save things like their precious email.

  2. They destroyed mice, keyboard and monitors because they had a computer virus? That’s completely idiotic!

    Well it’s reassuring to know that our Economic Development Administration is run by Top Men.

    And you can tell it’s an Ars Technica article, because they fail to name the individual that’s responsible. Which tells me he’s almost certainly an Obama appointee. If he’d been appointed by Bush they would have explicitly written that.

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