Cyberblue on cyberblue
When the Department of Homeland Security ran its first cyberwargame in February of 2006, it found it easier to fight intrusions to individual networks than fight a shifting and expanding attack across a spectrum of targets. This was precisely the kind of attack the Russians launched against Estonia a year and two months later. Suitably warned, the DHS grimly began to ramp its game, uneventfully on the whole, but with one tiny exception ...
In late 2007, a contractor for the US Department of Homeland Security sent its daily Open Source Intelligence Report to "a subscription list of hundreds, perhaps thousands of recipients" according to Michael Sachs, the director of the SANS Internet Storm Center. You can guess what happened next.
A fault in the settings created a storm of emails. Replies went to everyone on the DHS mail list, as did every other reply from people who replied back. Subsequent e-mails pleading with members to "stop hitting the reply-to-all button" added themselves to the din. Within a short time a storm of mail, most sent by misadventure was crisscrossing the network. ZDNet describes the tragicomic sequence of events.
Almost half of the emails were either pleas to stop sending more emails, or people demanding to be unsubscribed, despite the fact that unsubscribe instructions are at the bottom of the DHS daily reports, wrote Sachs. ..."This is your combating terrorism office for DoD asking you to kindly stop now please. We actually have work to do," wrote Michael Kinder of the US Department of Defence Technical Support Working Group, according to a blog post on Wired.com.
One State Department employee on the list got 500 messages on her handheld device each of which was individually billed to her. In a final bizarre touch one of the replies that turned up in the storm was from an Iranian employed with Teheran's defense industry. It said:
From: Amir Ferdosi
To: DHS Daily OSIR Distribution List
Sent: Wednesday, October 3, 2007 3:24:28 PM
Subject: Is this being a joke?
why are so many messages today?
Sazeman-e Sana'et-e Defa'
This is very distracting to my messages. I read English slowly. My main office is in Iran, but I commute to Europe. I am a researcher for the defence ministry. Today I am just outside Marseille, France--it is very mild temperature.
My brother lives in Tustin, California. Is that near you. I visited several years ago.
with respenct, amir