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Department Of Homeland Security: Private Company That Conducts Background Checks Hacked

Experts say logging onto some Wi-Fi hotspots could leave users vulnerable to hackers. (Credit: CBS 2)

Experts say logging onto some Wi-Fi hotspots could leave users vulnerable to hackers. (Credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A private company that conducts security background checks for federal employees had a “cybersecurity intrusion,” the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday.

The FBI has launched an investigation, and a multi-agency response team is attempting to figure out the scope of the breach, DHS said.

DHS said that some of its employees may have been affected and is urging its entire workforce to monitor their financial accounts for suspicious activity.

The name of the company that had been breached was not released.

News of the release comes a day after the New York Times reported Russian hackers stole 1.2 billion user names and passwords in a series of Internet heists impacting 420,000 websites.

The identities of the websites that were broken into weren’t identified by the Times.

The reported break-ins are the latest incidents to raise doubts about the security measures that both big and small companies use to protect people’s information online.

Security experts believe hackers will continue breaking into computer networks unless companies become more vigilant.

“Companies that rely on usernames and passwords have to develop a sense of urgency about changing this,” Avivah Litan, a security analyst at the research firm Gartner told the Times.

Retailer Target Corp. is still struggling to win back its shoppers’ trust after hackers believed to be attacking from Eastern Europe stole 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million addresses, phone numbers and other personal information last winter.

Alex Holden, the founder and chief information security officer of Hold Security, told the Times that most of the sites hit by the Russian hackers are still vulnerable to further break-ins. Besides filching 1.2 billion online passwords, the hackers also have amassed 500 million email addresses that could help them engineer other crimes, according to Hold Security.

So, far little of the information stolen in the wave of attacks appears to have been sold to other online crooks, according to the Times. Instead, the information is being used to send marketing pitches, schemes and other junk messages on social networks on Twitter, the newspaper said.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)