U.S. intelligence agencies last week urged the Obama administration to check its new healthcare network for malicious software after learning that developers linked to the Belarus government might have helped produce the website, raising fresh concerns that private data posted by millions of Americans will be compromised.
The intelligence agencies notified the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of the HealthCare.gov network, about their concerns.
Specifically, officials warned that programmers in Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, were suspected of inserting malicious code that could be used for cyber attacks, according to U.S. officials familiar with the concerns.
Administration officials responded Tuesday to the concerns.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said an intelligence report prompted HHS to conduct a review and that so far the agency has “no indications that any software was developed in Belarus.”
However, supply-chain reviews will continue as a matter of due diligence, she said.
The software links the millions of Americans who signed up for ObamaCare to the federal government and more than 300 medical institutions and healthcare providers.
“The U.S. Affordable Care Act software was written in part in Belarus by software developers under state control, and that makes the software a potential target for cyber attacks,” one official said.
Cyber security officials said the potential threat to the U.S. healthcare data is compounded by what they said was an Internet data “hijacking” last year involving Belarusian state-controlled networks.
The month-long diversion covertly rerouted massive amounts of U.S. Internet traffic to Belarus -- a repressive dictatorship located between Russia, Poland, and Ukraine.
The combination of the Belarus-origin software, the Internet re-routing, and the anti-U.S. posture of the Belarusian government “makes the software written in Belarus a potential target of cyber attacks for identity theft and privacy violations” of Americans, the official said.
Security officials urged HHS to immediately conduct inspections of the network software for malicious code.
The software currently is used in all medical facilities and insurance companies in the United States.
The officials also recommended that HHS use security specialists not related to software vendors for the inspections to reduce further risks.
Officials disclosed the potential software compromise last week after the discovery in early January of statements by Belarusian official Valery Tsepkalo, director of the government-backed High-Technology Park (HTP) in Minsk.
Tsepkalo told a Russian radio station in an interview broadcast last summer that HHS is “one of our clients,” and that “we are helping Obama complete his insurance reform.”