The White House warned today of the threat posed by WikiLeaks, LulzSec, and other “hacktivist” groups that have the ability to target U.S. companies and expropriate confidential data.
A new administration-wide strategy disclosed at a high-profile event in Washington that included Attorney General Eric Holder says the theft of trade secrets is on the rise and predicts such theft will undermine U.S. national security unless halted.
It’s a “steadily increasing threat to America’s economy and national security interests,” Holder said at the event, which also featured officials from the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
“Disgruntled insiders [may leak] information about corporate trade secrets or critical U.S. technology to ‘hacktivist’ groups like WikiLeaks,” the White House warns. Such groups could “develop customized malware or remote-access exploits to steal sensitive U.S. economic or technology information.”
While WikiLeaks is probably best known for disclosing sensitive U.S. government files, it has also released internal bank documents (and once promised to release more) and has been the subject of a controversial funds blockade by Mastercard, Visa, and PayPal. For its part, LulzSec successfully targeted News Corp., HBGary, and Sony in 2011, but has been far less active since, especially after it was infiltrated by the FBI.
The White House strategy views both organizations as part of a broader problem of nongovernment groups taking aim at U.S. companies’ networks, and predicts:
Hacktivists. Political or social activists also may use the tools of economic espionage against U.S. companies, agencies, or other entities. The self-styled whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks has already published computer files provided by corporate insiders indicating allegedly illegal or unethical behavior at a Swiss bank, a Netherlands-based commodities company, and an international pharmaceutical trade association. LulzSec — another hacktivist group — has exfiltrated data from several businesses that it posted for public viewing on its Web site.
In response to these threats, as well as to state-sponsored groups such as the ones Mandiant disclosed this week, the administration says it will increase “international law enforcement cooperation” and that the FBI and Justice Department will “prioritize these investigations and prosecutions.”