Here at Univention, we are of course also concerned by the attack on the German parliament’s IT infrastructure, better known as the “Bundestag hack”. To recap: It appears that there were some bogus e-mails there including links to malware. A number of the Windows PCs in the Bundestag’s “Parlakom” network were or may still be infected with the malware, which is alleged to have searched for and copied certain confidential Word documents. According to a report in the Tagesspiegel (German) newspaper, this allowed the hackers to gain “administration rights for the infrastructure”. The attack was conducted as an “advanced persistent threat” or “APT attack” for short: in other words, a complex, multi-phase attack on the German parliament’s “Parlakom” IT network.
How IT systems can be taken over
There are a whole host of “classic” approaches for taking over IT systems, such as the exploitation of security vulnerabilities in the software, the interception or guessing of passwords (brute force attacks) and the cracking of password hashes. These methods are well known and it is comparatively simple to reduce the risk of such attacks’ being successful. The requisite measures are: regular, comprehensive and rapid installation of updates, encryption of sensitive data and network communication using state-of-the-art encryption standards, the use of sufficiently long passwords, logging of failed login attempts and blocking of user accounts with too many failed attempts, the use of salted password hashes (the salt converts two identical passwords into different hashes), iteration of the hash functions (rounds) and changing passwords regularly.