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How Not to Handle a Malware Outbreak

By Dave Lewis

Malware is a pervasive problem in enterprises today. It can often be insidious as hell and difficult to ferret out. But sometimes the response to a malware outbreak defies basic common sense. The CIO for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) thought a scorched earth policy was the best approach…

From the Depart of Commerce audit report (.pdf):

EDA’s CIO concluded that the risk, or potential risk, of extremely persistent malware and nation-state activity (which did not exist) was great enough to necessitate the physical destruction of all of EDA’s IT components. 20 EDA’s management agreed with this risk assessment and EDA initially destroyed more than $170,000 worth of its IT components,21 including desktops, printers, TVs, cameras, computer mice, and keyboards. By August 1, 2012, EDA had exhausted funds for this effort and therefore halted the destruction of its remaining IT components, valued at over $3 million. EDA intended to resume this activity once funds were available. However, the destruction of IT components was clearly unnecessary because only common malware was present on EDA’s IT systems.

And there was this:

Not only was EDA’s CIO unable to substantiate his assertion with credible evidence, EDA’s IT staff did not support the assertion of an infection in the e-mail server

There are no words to express my complete amazement at this abjectly irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars.

The real rub from the report:

  • There was no widespread malware infection
  • There was no indication of an infection in the e-mail server

The fundamental disconnect here is mind-boggling.

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