Saturday, August 23, 2008

'Contractor error' suspected in $12,000 FEMA phone hack

FEMA is now investigating a hack attack against its voice mail system that racked up $12,000 in international calls, with preliminary evidence indicating that "contractor error" was probably involved.

Debbie Wing, a spokesperson with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, told BetaNews today that the government agency -- which is part of the US Dept. of Homeland Security -- first noticed "inappropriate" calling patterns on Saturday, August 16.

The unauthorized calls to the Mideast and Asia were placed through FEMA's voice mail system in Emmittsburg, MD. Wing said she didn't know, though, whether the calls began on Saturday or some time prior.

After becoming aware of the calls, FEMA staff notified the agency's security operations center. The agency immediately starting blocking all international calls, as well as monitoring all long distance calls, from FEMA's National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Wing said.

The spokesperson confirmed that FEMA recently installed a new PBX voice mail system. Preliminary evidence from an internal investigation still in progress points to involvement of "contractor error" or some other type of user error, she said.

"This will not happen again. We've taken steps to make sure that our entire telecommunications system is in a secure state," BetaNews was told.

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