Cyber-Attack Attempted By Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Employee

A cyber attack was launched to steal files from the Department of Energy. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted an undercover investigation on a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NEC) and U.S. Department of Energy employee, Charles Harvey Eccleston.

On May 8, the FBI submitted a press release claiming they performed an official investigation on the former NEC and Dept. of Energy employee, Eccleston, shortly after he entered a foreign embassy and “offered to provide classified information, which he claimed had been taken from the U.S. government.”

The FBI launched their sting operation on Eccleston with an agent posing as a representative of a foreign country. The FBI agent offered the Eccleston money in exchange for conducting a cyber-attack on the Dept. of Energy’s computer systems.

While undercover, the FBI agent convinced Eccleston into believing he would receive future payments if he would perform a cyber-attack involving spear-phishing email accounts of Dept. of Energy employees capable of damaging the department’s computer systems to obtain sensitive information involving nuclear secrets.

Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen offered the following statement about the FBI’s success in halting a cyber-attack by 62-year-old Charles Harvey Eccleston.

“This former federal employee is charged with trying to launch a cyber-attack to steal sensitive information from the Department of Energy. Thanks to an innovative operation by the FBI, no malicious code was actually transmitted to government computers. This prosecution demonstrates federal law enforcement’s vigorous efforts to neutralize cyber threats that put consumers, our economy, and our national security at risk.”

Charles Eccleston is a U.S. citizen currently living in the Philippines. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission terminated his employment in 2010. In 20111, Eccleston took up residency in Davao City in the Philippines.

Eccleston is indicted with four felony charges. The cyber-attack crimes include three counts of unauthorized access to computers, and one count of wire fraud. He could face up to 50 years in jail.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John P. Carlin offered his thoughts of this recent cyber-attack in the FBI press release.

“Combating cyber-based threats to our national assets is one of our highest priorities. As alleged in the indictment, Eccleston sought to compromise, exploit, and damage U.S. government computer systems that contained sensitive nuclear weapon-related information with the intent to allow foreign nations to gain access to that material. We must continue to evolve our efforts and capabilities to confront cyber enabled threats and aggressively detect, disrupt and deter them. We are grateful for the tireless efforts of law enforcement in this case.”

[Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images]