The Federal Reserve is a very important cog in the American economic machine. If hackers could compromise the systems at any of its 12 locations, there's no telling how much damage they could cause, or what kind of information they could get that would help them attack other financial institutions.
Given that, you'd assume that hackers would be targeting the Fed and you'd be right. The St. Louis Federal Reserve, which serves Arkansas and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, has just issued a statement about a recent security problem.
On April 24, 2015, hackers took control of the DNS servers that feed several sites managed by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. As a quick refresher, DNS servers are the computers that turn text Web addresses, such as "komando.com" into IP addresses that Internet servers understand, such as "22.214.171.124".
The hackers programmed the DNS servers to send web users trying to get to research.stlouisfed.org to malicious fake websites instead. The websites looked very much like the real sites, and even had a place for people to log in. Of course, if they did log in, the user name and password information went right to the hackers.
The damage this hack will cause is hard to tell at this point. None of the Fed sites themselves were hacked or even touched, so that's good news.
The sites that the hackers copied were geared toward economic data research. So the people logging in would be researchers, not financial institutions, government officials or Fed employees. That probably means there is no immediate danger to the Fed's systems.
However, this could be the start, or continuation, of a major social engineering attack. Knowing which researchers are involved with the Fed lets hackers craft tricky emails to Fed employees pretending to from these known and trusted researchers.
If hackers can trick Fed employees into clicking on a malicious link in an email, or downloading an email attachment containing a virus, they can get a toehold into Fed systems. I've warned you before about LinkedIn being used for this kind of attack on your own company.