June 13, 2011, 2:00 PM — The good news for the International Monetary Fund this week is that, so far, it has avoided the attack by hactivist group Anonymous, for which it was preparing two weeks ago.
"We are aware of the threat, and have taken appropriate action," an anonymous executive with the International Monetary Foundation told the Wall Street Journal for a June 1 story about threats made by members of Anonymous who wanted to attack the IMF for its policies toward cash-strapped Greece.
Nice work, IMF (assuming some members of Anonymous, or proto-members, weren't just letting off a little of their own frustration on their personal favorite in a long list of potential Anonymous targets, attacks on which require more support than a small percentage of the membership).
While IMF was surviving, avoiding, or being ignored by Anonymous, it was being pretty thoroughly penetrated by someone else whose purposes and techniques are unclear.
Nevertheless, the hackers' nefarious purpose was "to steal insider information" according to a Reuters story whose editor was apparently so impressed with someone speaking with confidence he/she didn't notice the quote was too much a facepalm to run in the story, let alone become a headline that made Reuters look like it didn't know any more about cyberattacks than that they intended to attack something cyberially.
Read the rest of the story, and others by the NYT and a few other outlets, and you get a clearer picture of an exploit that probably involved spear-phishing targets within the IMF and installing malware after hooking one.
Read all the headlines and you'll just see more smoke – the kind of pollution you get when pundits with a lot of general knowledge keep talking even without knowing anything specific about the case at hand.
Here's a rundown of what we know:
June 8, according to Reuters, the IMF's CIO sent a memo to staffers saying IT security had tracked suspicious file transfers down to a desktop computer that had been compromised and used as a launch point to penetrate IMF servers.