According to Bleeping Computer, hackers targeted the Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s (FBI) email systems, sending out hundreds of bogus messages claiming that recipients had been victims of a “sophisticated chain attack.” The Spamhaus Project, a nonprofit organisation that investigates email spammers, first discovered the emails.

The emails falsely allege that Vinny Troia was behind the bogus assaults and that Troia is linked to the notorious hacker gang The Dark Overlord – the same bad guys that released the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black. Troia is a well-known cybersecurity researcher who is the founder of two dark web security firms, NightLion and Shadowbyte.

The hackers were able to send emails to over 100,000 addresses, according to Bleeping Computer, all of which were scraped from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) database. Hackers utilised the FBI’s public-facing email system, according to Bloomberg, making the communications appear more official. The headers are authenticated as coming from FBI servers using the Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) process, which is part of the system Gmail uses to stick brand logos on verified corporate emails. Cybersecurity researcher Kevin Beaumont also attests to the email’s legitimacy, stating that the headers are authenticated as coming from FBI servers using the Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) process, which is part of the system Gmail uses to stick brand logos on verified corporate emails.

The FBI issued a statement about the incident, stating that it is a “ongoing situation” and that “the impacted hardware has been taken offline.” Apart from that, the FBI claims it has no additional information to disclose at this time.

The spam effort was most likely carried out in an attempt to discredit Troia, according to Bleeping Computer. Troia speculates in a tweet that the attack was carried out by a person known only as “Pompompurin.” According to Bleeping Computer, the same person has allegedly tried to harm Troia’s reputation in the past in similar ways.

Pompompurin is also linked to the event, according to a revelation by computer security reporter Brian Krebs, who claims the man messaged him from an FBI email address after the attacks were launched, saying, “Hi, its pompompurin.” Check the email’s headers; it’s coming from an FBI server.” Pompompurin told KrebsOnSecurity that the breach was intended to draw attention to security flaws in the FBI’s email infrastructure.

In a statement to KrebsOnSecurity, Pompompurin claimed, “I could’ve 1000 percent leveraged this to send more legit-looking emails, fool corporations into passing over data, etc.” The person also told the outlet that they took advantage of a security flaw on the FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise (LEEP) portal and used a one-time password embedded in the page’s HTML to sign up for an account. Pompompurin claims they were able to change the sender’s address and email body from there, allowing them to carry out the large spam campaign.

With that level of access, the attack may have been far more serious than a false alarm that alerted system administrators. President Joe Biden approved a bug repair earlier this month, requiring civilian federal entities to patch any known threats. Following the devastating attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds, Biden signed an executive order in May aimed at improving the nation’s cyber defences.

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