Utah government sees 10,000-fold increase in cyberattacks

For government IT managers, cyberattacks are a daily reality and they are typically prepared with a host of detection and remediation tools to ensure sensitive data is not compromised. 

But the state of Utah has recently been subject to an unusual level of cyber malice that many believe is attributable to the $1 billion National Security Agency data center located there.

Estimates on the number of attacks on Utah’s state computer networks range from 300 million per day to 500 million. In contrast, in 2013 the state was only seeing 50,000 to 20 million cyberattacks daily. Initial explanations for the surge of attacks point to a correlation between NSA and Utah computer networks. 

"Maybe these hackers are thinking: 'If we can attack state systems, we can get info that NSA isn't releasing," said director of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's, graduate cybersecurity program Richard Forno in an AP report.

The NSA data center was constructed with the goal of significantly bolstering the intelligence community’s national security capabilities. First, the data center was designed to store immense amounts of data, with initial media accounts  indicating the center could be capable of storing yottabytes of information, or one thousand trillion gigabytes of data. The actual amount the facility currently and is projected to store is classified. 

The facility is also a Tier III data center, which is the penultimate level in security in the current Tier rating system. 

Despite suggestions by cyber experts that the attacks in Utah could likely be "noise from low-tech people rather than concerted efforts for meaningful foreign intelligence collection,” Utah officials are concerned about the cyber bombardment and in keeping sensitive information secure.

 Some public officials feel the federal government should provide the state with additional funding and resources to combat the increased attacks due to the NSA facility’s presence. 

"They are costing us a ton of money," Rep. Curt Oda, a member of the Utah House of Representatives., told the Salt Lake City Tribune. "They need to pony up."

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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