Morning Security Brief: Sony PlayStation Network Hacked, U.S. Planes Sent to Surveil Syria, Railroad Safety, and More

By Holly Gilbert Stowell

► A cyberattack against the Sony Corporation briefly shut down the PlayStation network on Sunday, and a bomb threat grounded a flight carrying one of the company’s executives on the same day. The Independent reports that a Twitter account claiming responsibility for the network hack alleged it had information about a bomb on board the plane that Jon Smedley, Sony’s online entertainment president, was traveling in. His commercial flight was diverted to Phoenix, Arizona. The denial of service attack only caused a brief delay to the PlayStation network, and the FBI is investigating the threat against the executive’s plane. Sony said in a statement that there was “no evidence of any unauthorized access to users’ personal information.”

► The United States has sent surveillance planes to fly over Syria, according to the Associated Press. President Obama approved the plan, which could point to possible airstrikes against Islamist State group (ISIS) militants in the area. “While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step,” the article states. Officials from the Pentagon have also been drafting potential solutions for the administration, which include airstrikes. The United States has already conducted airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, but the President has been reluctant to take military action in Syria. However, the killing of American journalist James Foley last week, who was held by ISIS captors in Syria, appears to have been a tipping point for that policy. The officials who gave information about surveillance planes in Syria spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, and the White House has declined to comment on the situation.

► Government Security News reports that the Federal Railroad Administration has funded two grants that total more than $350,000 for the development of a Short Line Safety Institute, which would “help mitigate risk associated with shipping hazardous material.” The institute is also meant to help improve the overall safety record of the short line and regional rail industry. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that the grants are fundamental for safety enhancements, given that nearly half of all short line and regional railroads carry hazardous materials. According to the article, the purpose of the institute is to “conduct safety compliance assessments to measure compliance with federal safety standards and safety culture assessments to evaluate the steps each railroad is taking to promote safe practices internally.” The institute will also “provide safety education, training, and development to managers and employees.” The pilot testing phase of safety culture assessments by the American Shortline and Regional Railroad Association will begin in January 2015. 

► In other news, the Federal Register has an interview with Michael Daniel, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, to discuss the current cyber challenges and progress that has been made. ⇒ The Singapore government announced it is bolstering its cybersecurity practices after a series of attacks against state Web sites. ⇒ And CIO reports on five ways federal CIOs plan to improve security monitoring.


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