Threat Research Blog

Government Shutdown Doesn’t Stop Cyber Criminals

The government shutdown not only keeps 800,000 federal employees home from their jobs, but leaves U.S. defenses down in a time where it simply can't be negligent or disorganized.

Most Americans have realized the impact of the shut down on services - from national park closures to an attempt to close the ocean - and many other government funded resources that we've come to take for granted. Yet, the impact on IT networks may not have had such a spotlight shinning on it, until now. Ironically, this awareness coincides with Department of Homeland Security and National Cyber Alliance's National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is now celebrating its 10th year.

Recently, our own Richard Bejtlich sat down with a panel of experts organized by POLITICO to discuss the impact of the government shutdown on cyber.

The key issue is that the government shutdown furloughed employees who play an essential role in defending U.S. computer networks within the Department of Defense, intelligence and civilian agencies. While some of these employees have recently returned to their jobs, the vulnerability is still there, specifically within networks that house sensitive classified information that attackers want access to.

While these networks may not be monitored as diligently while the government works to reopen for business, Bejtlich points out that there has not been a let-up in the Chinese hacking threats that we track, nor any shortage of dedication by Beijing to continue to try to exploit American and international networks.

"I'm hopeful a compromise will soon be reached to reopen the government. The shutdown impedes the efforts made by the FBI to notify compromise victims. This third-party notification process helps companies learn that they have lost sensitive information to foreign industrial spies. We can't afford to degrade such a program due to budget battles."

In fact, Bejtlich emphasizes that with two million people dedicated to censoring the Internet in China, there is no doubt the same manpower will be pointed in our direction with the intent of interfering with our government networks.

To read what other experts on the POLITICO panel had to say along with additional remarks from Richard Bejtlich, go to the full story at