recommended reading

The Hacker Who Worked on a Navy Nuclear Aircraft Carrier

A French military plane flies over the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Oman.

A French military plane flies over the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Oman. // Hasan Jamali/AP

Nicholas Knight and his hacker crew, Digi7al, were a lot like other hacking crews. According to a Federal indictment filed this week, they broke into computers, took information, posted it, and boasted about their exploits.

But there is a key difference: Nicholas Knight was employed by the Navy on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. He called himself a "nuclear black hat," black hat being a common term for a broad array of malicious hackers (think outlaw motorcycle clubs).

Knight was working as sysadmin supporting the ship's nuclear reactor. But the indictment alleges, he was also hacking Los Alamos National Laboratory, AT&T, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Toronto Police Service, and the Navy itself.

The Navy discharged Knight after he was caught trying to worm his way into a Navy database while aboard a Navy vessel

The exploit that drew the focused attention of the authorities was the capture of at least part of a database that held the information of 200,000 Navy servicepeople who were being transferred. They employed a common hacking technique called a SQL injection, in which attackers probe a database to understand and (ultimately) exploit it

They posted the information—with social security numbers redacted—and crowed about it on Twitter. The Navy service underpinned by the database was shut down and never reopened, causing logistical hassles for individuals and the armed service itself. 

The indictment doesn't disclose much information about the attack on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, but this is the agency that serves as, roughly, Google Earth for the military. As they describe their mission: "NGA is there to Know the Earth… Show the Way… Understand the World."

It's also unclear precisely what Digi7al obtained from Homeland Security's Transportation Worker Identification program, although the indictment implies they got into a database that contained the "biometric and other sensitive personal information" of DHS workers at maritime facilities.

Perhaps the scariest haul from their exploits were the 2,500 usernames and passwords of Toronto police affiliates, along with the personal information of 500 police informants. Yikes. 

At the time of this writing, the website for the USS Harry S. Truman was down.

Threatwatch Alert

Network intrusion

Florida’s Concealed Carry Permit Holders Names Exposed

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.