US charges former government employee with cyber attack

Justice Department charges former Nuclear Regulatory Commission employee with trying to steal sensitive nuclear information with ‘spear-phishing’ attack

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

US Department of Justice indicted a former Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) employee for trying to steal sensitive nuclear information.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has published a statement on its website saying former NRC employee, Charles Eccleston (62), was charged “in connection with an attempted e-mail ‘spear-phishing’ attack in January 2015, targeting dozens of Department of Energy employee e-mail accounts.”

Eccleston was living in the Philippines since 2011 before he was deported to the US earlier this year following his arrest on March 27. He was fired from NRC in 2010.

Justice Department said Eccleston was approached by undercover FBI agents posing as foreigners promising to pay for a spear phishing attack, following his alleged contact with a foreign embassy for provision of secret US information.

“Eccleston sought to compromise, exploit and damage US government computer systems that contained sensitive nuclear weapon-related information with the intent to allow foreign nations to gain access to that material,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said.

“We must continue to evolve our efforts and capabilities to confront cyber enabled threats and aggressively detect, disrupt and deter them.”

An e-mail spear phishing attack aims to extract secret information by inflicting a person's computer with a virus, attached to an e-mail apparently coming from a trusted source, which in turn would enable the attacker to access personal information.   

Eccleston was charged with four felony offenses, including crimes involving unauthorised access of computers and wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

His first court hearing is scheduled for May 20, until which he will remain detained.

TRTWorld and agencies