The Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Energy, Gregory Friedman, has revealed that recent hacking attacks perpetrated against the agency have caused damages in excess of $2 million. The data was made public as part of an annual review conducted because of the Federal Information Security Management Act. There were at least three breaches of security, but apart from that information and the total costs incurred, no further details regarding the attack were provided to the public.
Friedman underlined the need for IT services departments at both government and private institutions to provide robust security solutions, writing in his report that "as noted by recent successful attacks at four department locations, exploitation of vulnerabilities can cause significant disruption to operations and/or increases the risk of modification or destruction of sensitive data or programs, and possible theft or improper disclosure of confidential information."
Advanced hacking attacks can do more than compromise computer-based data such as customers' credit card numbers and internal company memos. They can also deny access to the internet completely or target email services to shut them down, as happened last July at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility that is itself engaged in researching IT solutions related to securing government data.
With the scale of cyber attacks running into millions of dollars worth of damage, enterprises are well advised to take proactive measures to assess and improve their network security. A sound first step is to contract a third party IT consultant to perform a thorough security audit - an outside firm can better locate your potential vulnerabilities than internal staff who are accustomed to your systems and methodologies.