An older hacking technique leaves FEMA with egg on its face... and a hefty phone bill

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) phone system was compromised by a hacker who then placed more than 400 phone calls to the Middle East and Asia.  The calls cost a total of $12,000 and ranged from three minutes up to 10 minutes in length.

Specifically, the Emmitsburg, Maryland FEMA facility was targeted by the hacker.

FEMA CIO Jeanne Etzel and several IT managers are looking into the intrusion of the recently installed Private Branch Exchange (PBX) network.  Sprint was first to notice the fraud, with the company immediately stopping all long-distance phone calls through the PBX network.

It was revealed that calls were placed to Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, plus a few other nations.

As part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it's even more ironic that FEMA was compromised by a "security hole" that was left open while the network's voicemail system was undergoing maintenance.  It was just five years ago when Homeland Security warned companies about silly security issues that could leave them exposed to security issues.  FEMA IT officials indicated the security hole has been fixed.

The hacker used "old school" hacking techniques that were effective about 10 years ago, but shouldn't have been successful any more.

The DHS has had several different run ins with hackers over the past few years.  During a security intrusion last year, hackers gained access to more than two dozen DHS computers with the information being sent to China.  The DHS said security methods were not properly installed by Unisys, which is why the security intrusion took place.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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