Economic Development Administration Destroyed Its Computer System to Defeat Non-Existent Cyber Attack

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) destroyed hundreds of computers, printers, monitors and mice to eradicate a computer virus threat that didn’t exist.


The blunder cost EDA nearly $3 million last year, wiping out about half of the agency’s IT budget.


How did such a mistake happen? Poor communication, bad decision-making, email blunders, and a serious misunderstanding of what malware can do.


EDA’s chief technology officer ordered the equipment destroyed after being told by the Department of Commerce’s cyber incident response team that 146 out of 250 systems on the department’s network had been hit by a large-scale malware cyber-attack.


It turned out this number was way off—only two computers actually had a virus.


But that doesn’t explain why the agency’s top IT official thought it was necessary to not only destroy all the computers, but also discard keyboards, monitors, mice, cameras and even televisions—when such equipment isn’t vulnerable to malware.  


The 2012 fiasco came to light in a newly released Commerce Office of Inspector General report (pdf).


It took nearly a year for the agency to recover, building up its system again from scratch.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Federal Agency Spent Millions Destroying Computers for No Reason At All (by Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story)

EDA's Overreaction to Cyber Attack Highlights Every Agency's Challenge (by Jason Miller, Federal News Radio)

Economic Development Administration: Malware Infections on EDA’s Systems Were Overstated and the Disruption of IT Operations Was Unwarranted (Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Commerce) (pdf)

State Fires Contractor and Wants $50 Million Back for Troubled Computer Project (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)         

Another State Technology Project Goes Awry; This One Costs $371 Million (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

New In-Home Care Payment Computer System Grinds to a Halt (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

FBI and Secret Service Struggle with Outdated Computer Systems (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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