Health agency pulls 'podcasting' page after hacking

The Internet page for audio and video "podcasts" from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was hacked earlier this month, prompting the agency to pull it indefinitely and alert visitors that their computers may have been infected with a computer virus.

Currently, the page redirects visitors to a notice that says CDC staff discovered the hacking incident Feb. 1. As a precaution, the agency removed the page that same day. The notice adds: "[W]e anticipate the site will be down for the next few days. We are working to make sure that the podcast site is safe, and we will repost it in a few days."

The agency warned that public users who accessed CDC's site that day may have contracted a virus, so they should scan their computers for problems. At present, CDC has no evidence that sensitive information was compromised by the hacking incident.

Asked Tuesday about the hacking incident, CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner said: "There is not much to add at this time. CDC is continuing to work with the appropriate authorities to investigate, and we hope to have the site up and running ASAP."

The agency's podcasts had featured segments on various medical topics, such as "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report" articles, scientific and cooperative training programs, and health guidelines.

Hacked sites can be altered to run malicious software, or "malware," to disrupt systems when people click on different portions of the site, according to Paul Proctor, a vice president at Gartner Research in the security and risk group.

"This malware may exploit vulnerabilities in the Web browser of the person doing the clicking and download all kinds of nasty stuff" like "botnets," software robots that control computers remotely, Proctor said. "Another possibility is that podcasts were replaced with malware executable [files], which users would download and click on with the intention of hearing a podcast but, instead, infect their machine."

If CDC has identified the type of malware, the agency should follow-up with more guidance on how the members of the public affected can address the specific viruses found, he added.

As to why someone may have been motivated to damage the podcast site, Proctor said the miscreants simply may have been looking for an ill-secured site.

"Attackers troll the Internet for vulnerable sites to infect," he said. "I can't see much targeted hacker interest in people listening to CDC podcasts. Their machines work as well as everyone else's to become soldiers in the increasing number of botnet armies, which are a very common threat today."

Proctor offered the typical reminder to download antivirus software and patches to fix holes in various programs.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

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

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    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
  • 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
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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