Lulzsec sets sights on U.S. Senate and game-maker Bethesda

Hackers break into a Senate account, but can do little; the Bethesda hack, however, looks serious

The Lulzsec hacking group continues to cause headaches for IT staffers. On Monday it published data it obtained from servers belonging to the U.S. Senate and Bethesda Softworks, a Rockville, Maryland, game maker.

The U.S. Senate hack appears to be the less serious of the two. According to Martina Bradford, a spokeswoman for the Senate's sergeant at arms, the hacking group managed to break into the account of an unnamed senator's office and then execute commands on the Senate's Web server. But because the server was locked down by Senate staff, it doesn't look like Lulzsec was able to do much on the server.

"Because each Senate member and committee maintains its own presence on Senate.gov and may not always incorporate recommended security protocols, Sergeant at Arms staff has configured the server to minimize the damage that can be caused by a vulnerability in any portion of the site," Bradford said via e-mail.

Even Lulzsec didn't seem to see the incident as a big deal, describing it as a "small, just-for-kicks release of some internal data."

The anonymous hacker group popped up last month and has launched successful and high-profile attacks on servers belonging to the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, Sony and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Atlanta InfraGard group.

In the past, Lulzsec has defaced Web servers, but apparently it was unable to do that to Senate.gov. "The intruder did not gain access into the Senate computer network and was only able to read and determine the directory structure of the files placed on senate.gov," Bradford said. IT staff learned about the hack over the weekend and immediately identified and fixed the vulnerability, she said.

It appears that Senate IT staffers "actually did a good job on security," said Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer with Veracode, a company that tests software for security flaws. It's not uncommon for hackers to find an initial vulnerability in Internet-facing servers, but the Lulzsec hackers apparently weren't able to deface the site or get access to sensitive data. "The fact that they had a good configuration meant that [Lulzsec] didn't go any further," he said.

Bethesda Softworks wasn't so lucky.

"After mapping their internal network and thoroughly pillaging all of their servers, we grabbed all their source code and database passwords, which we proceeded to shift silently back to our storage deck," Lulzsec said.

Bethesda is the maker of the Elder Scrolls role-playing video game franchise. Lulzsec has now published much of the data it claims to have downloaded from the game maker. Bethesda could not immediately be reached for comment.

The hackers said that they have usernames and passwords belonging to 200,000 gamers. But they said they're not going to publish that information. "We actually like this company and would like for them to speed up the production of Skyrim, so we'll give them one less thing to worry about. You're welcome!"

Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is due out in November.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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Tags U.S. SenatesecurityVeracodegameslegalgovernmentBethesda Softworkscybercrime

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Robert McMillan

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