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Federal agents disrupted cyberattack targeting phone, internet infrastructure on Oahu

Federal agents disrupted cyberattack targeting phone, internet infrastructure on Oahu

HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) — Homeland Security Investigations says it was able to disrupt a cyber attack on an important undersea cable, adding that hackers sought to target “Oahu’s infrastructure.”

The cable connects Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean to important communications, including the Internet and cell phones.

HSI said its agents, on the advice of their mainland counterparts, were able to disrupt last week a “significant breach involving private company services” linked to the undersea cable.

“We then discovered credentials belonging to individuals here in Hawaii, and we are very important to their operations,” said John Tobon, the special agent in charge at HSI.

The special agent in charge said the cyber thief was able to gain access to critical information in a private company, but was stopped before any damage occurred.

“So it could have been just making a mess, or in other words, just cutting off communications,” Tobon explained. Or it may have been used to target ransomware type schemes to individuals.

There are eight submarine cables that run through Hawaii and connect the mainland with foreign countries such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Fortunately, there are emergencies if one is compromised, said Bert Lum, Hawaii’s broadband strategy officer.

“If the bad guys get to one of the trans-Pacific systems, there’s enough path diversity that it can still provide communications through another viable route,” Lum explained.

Lom said that in order to better protect these data lines, there needs to be more collaboration between government and private companies.

“I don’t think it exists, but I do think there is an opportunity to collaborate and work together on a solution,” Lom said.

While there has been no damage to communications infrastructure or an immediate threat, Tobon said what is worrying is that this is not the first and certainly won’t be the last cyber attack.

“Even as we sit here and talk, there are other attempts,” Tobon explained. “We want the general public to understand that cybersecurity is everyone’s business.”

HSI said it was able to identify an international hacking group responsible for the attack. HSI agents and international law enforcement partners in many countries have made arrests.

No further information will be released, pending trial.

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