Military Networks Increasingly Are Under Attack

March 12th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Military Networks Increasingly Are Under Attack

Wall Street Journal
March 12, 2008
Pg. 7
U.S. Commander For Cyberspace Says There Is China Link
By Yochi J. Dreazen
BELLEVUE, Neb. -- The top U.S. commander in charge of cyberspace said that American military networks are coming under increasing attack from hackers seeking to steal classified information, and that many of the incidents appear linked to China.
Gen. Kevin Chilton, who heads the military's Strategic Command here, stopped short of formally accusing Beijing of responsibility for the attacks. But he said there was significant evidence to suggest that China was behind many of the incidents.
"The thing about China that gives you pause is that they've written openly about their emphasis in particular areas -- space and cyberspace," he said. Based on the writings and "what's happening, you can kind of connect the dots," he said.
The comments were the latest to effectively accuse China of trying to hack sensitive U.S. government and military computer networks, accusations Beijing regularly denies.
In a report released earlier this month, the Pentagon said that the Chinese People's Liberation Army was expanding its military power from "the land, air and sea dimensions of the traditional battlefield into the space and cyber-space domains."
"The PLA has established information-warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and tactics and measures to protect friendly computer systems and network," the report noted.
China reacted angrily to the Pentagon report, with a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry labeling it a "serious distortion of facts." Speaking to reporters last week, the spokesman, Qin Gang, also urged the U.S. "to drop its Cold War mentality."
U.S. officials have specifically linked China to several successful cyber attacks against military networks.
In the fall of 2006, hackers broke into the Naval War College's computer network and temporarily disabled it. Last June, hackers cracked an unclassified Pentagon email system used by the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, forcing officials to temporarily take the system off-line.
China denied any responsibility for the two incidents, but the strikes added to the growing U.S. concern about the security of its classified military and government networks, which come under attack tens of thousands of times each day.
In a report last fall, the Government Accountability Office warned that critical infrastructure like power plants and water-treatment facilities faced "increasing risks due to cyber threats," and were "more vulnerable to cyber attacks than in the past."
The GAO report cited instances like an October 2006 strike against the water system in Harrisburg, Pa., in which hackers planted software capable of affecting the facility's water-treatment operations.
In an interview with a small group of reporters in his office at the sprawling Offutt Air Force Base, Gen. Chilton said most efforts to breach the military's computer networks involve attempts to improperly "mine" classified data, a process he likened to Cold War-era espionage.
"Twenty years ago you'd have hired somebody to go in the middle of the night with a flashlight in their teeth to open the drawer and do a bunch of photography of files," he said. Today, "you can do it from your home country, wherever it might be."
Gen. Chilton said U.S. officials worried that the incidents could be the precursors to more serious forms of cyber-attacks, like attempts to actually knock out the military's classified networks.
The commander, a former astronaut, said he was particularly concerned about attacks similar to those that struck Estonia in the spring of 2007. The cyber-strikes against the small Baltic country clogged the Web sites of an array of Estonia's government, media, and financial sites, slowing Internet traffic to a crawl and effectively rendering the sites useless.
"You don't shut the system down completely, but you slow it down," Gen. Chilton said. "I would consider that an attack."

Similar Topics
Military Hackers Turn To Commercial Electronic Attack Tools
Colombia's Military Toughens Up
Paul Leads In Donations From Military Voters, With Obama Next
Guardsmen To Be Honored For Border Actions
"Triple Alliance": The US, Turkey, Israel