By BRADY McCOMBS Associated Press, February 6, 2015
Utah state officials have seen what they describe as a sharp uptick in attempts to hack into state computers in the last two years, and they think it related to the NSA data center south of Salt Lake City.
The increase began in early 2013 as international attention focused on the NSA’s $1.7 billion warehouse to store massive amounts of information gathered secretly from phone calls and emails.
“In the cyber world, that’s a big deal,” Utah Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires told a state legislative committee this week.
While most of the attempts are likely innocuous, cyber experts say it is possible low-level hackers, “hactivists” unhappy with the NSA’s tactics, and some foreign criminal groups might erroneously think the state systems are linked to the NSA.
. . . The state tracks the attempts with an automated system it purchased after a breach of health care information in 2012. The system detects, stops and counts the attempts to get into the computers, Squires said. With that new equipment in place in January 2013, the state was seeing an average of 50,000 a day with spikes up to 20 million, Squires told The Associated Press. In February 2013, the number rose to an average of 75 million attacks a day, with up to 500 million on some days.
. . . . . . For hackers seeking notoriety, the NSA would be a prized target because it employs the world’s best hackers and routinely gives advice about how to keep computers safe from online criminals.