March 14, 2013, 11:57 AM — A U.S. government computer vulnerability database and several other websites at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have been down for nearly a week after workers there found malware on two Web servers.
NIST's National Vulnerability Database (NVD) website, which includes databases of security checklists, security-related software flaws and misconfigurations, is one of the sites affected, a NIST spokeswoman said in an email.
Last Friday, a NIST firewall "detected suspicious activity and took steps to block unusual traffic from reaching the Internet," said spokeswoman Gail Porter. "NIST began investigating the cause of the unusual activity and the servers were taken offline."
The National Vulnerability Database is a comprehensive repository of information that allows computers to conduct automated searches for the latest known vulnerabilities in hardware or software computing products, Porter said. The goal of the NVD is to help organizations and individuals better protect their computers against security threats.
Many government agencies and private businesses use the database, she said.
NIST traced the malware on two servers to a software vulnerability, she said.
The agency does not see any evidence that the NIST websites "were used to deliver malware to users of these NIST Web sites," Porter added.
NIST will restore the servers as soon as possible, she added.
Security professional Kim Halavakoski found the database was down when he went to the website to get some vulnerability information, he said in a Google+ post late Wednesday.
"Hacking the NVD and planting malware on the very place where we get our vulnerability information, that is just pure evil!" he wrote.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.