A “cyber incident” at Department of Energy (DOE) headquarters in Washington, DC, in mid-January targeted the agency’s network “and resulted in the unauthorized disclosure of employee and contractor” information.

In a letter distributed to DOE employees Friday, the agency said an investigation conducted by its cybersecurity team, the Office of Health, Safety and Security, the Inspector General’s office and federal law enforcement concluded that no classified data was compromised by the cyber attack.

“We believe several hundred DOE employees’ and contractors’ PII [personally identifiable information] may have been affected,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by NGI. “As individual affected employees are identified, they will be notified and offered assistance on steps they can take to protect themselves from potential identity theft.”

A total of 14 computer servers and 20 workstations at DOE headquarters were penetrated during the attack, according to the Washington Free Beacon newspaper.

The investigation of the cyber attack is continuing. A DOE spokesman on Monday said the agency would not comment on the incident.

DOE will implement a full remediation plan once the full extent of the incident is known, according to the letter. And the department is “leading an aggressive effort to reduce the likelihood of these events occurring again,” including leveraging the capabilities of its Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Center, increasing monitoring of its networks and “deploying specialized defense tools to protect sensitive assets.”

The Department of Homeland Security last May reported that since December 2011 there had been an “active series” of cyber attacks on natural gas pipeline companies’ computer networks (see Daily GPI, May 8, 2012).

Telvent, a Canadian firm whose software systems and services are used to remotely manage more than half of the oil and gas pipelines in North America and Latin America, in September confirmed a security breach involving the project files of some of its customers (see Daily GPI, Sept. 28, 2012). News of the Telvent breach came just days after Dell’s SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit issued an alert warning of a sustained cyber espionage campaign directed at companies in the energy sector.

And it followed on the heels of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff’s announcement to create an office at the agency to focus on cyber and physical security risks to energy facilities under its jurisdiction, such as interstate natural gas pipelines, gas storage and electric transmission facilities (see Daily GPI, Sept. 24, 2012). Wellinghoff has expressed his exasperation with the lack of a federal system for reporting threats to energy infrastructure (see Daily GPI, Sept. 6, 2012).

Taking matters into his own hands after Congress failed to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, President Obama reportedly is preparing an executive order aimed at protecting critical national infrastructure, including power plants, and natural gas and crude pipelines, from cyber attacks (see Daily GPI, Sept. 13, 2012).

A secret review of the United States’ ability to react to cyber attacks recently concluded that Obama has the power to order a pre-emptive strike if a major digital attack is imminent, the New York Times reported Sunday.

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