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Friday, November 28, 2008

Cyber Attack Against Combat Zone/Military Computers

The LA Times reports that top military leaders briefed President Bush this week regarding a cyber attack against military computers, affecting a highly classified network, a U.S. Central Command which oversees our military in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan as well as affecting computers in those combat zones.

Although details about the extent of the damage have not been released, one defense official has stated "This one was significant; this one got our attention."

Although officials are withholding many details, the attack underscores the increasing danger and potential significance of computer warfare, which defense experts say could one day be used by combatants to undermine even a militarily superior adversary.

Bush was briefed on the threat by Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen also briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Military electronics experts have not pinpointed the source or motive of the attack and could not say whether the destructive program was created by an individual hacker or whether the Russian government may have had some involvement. Defense experts may never be able to answer such questions, officials said.

The defense official said the military also had not learned whether the software's designers may have been specifically targeting computers used by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is suspected the origin of the malware affecting the computers was Russia but that is just a suspicion at this point and even then, they have no clue as to whether it was a private hacker or group or whether the government was involved.

The malware is known as "agent.btz" and last week Pentagon officials placed a worldwide ban on the use of external computer flash drives. Evidently agent.btz has the ability to "spread to any flash drive plugged into an infected computer."

Defense officials acknowledged that the worldwide ban on external drives was a drastic move. Flash drives are used constantly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many officers keep them loaded with crucial information on lanyards around their necks.

Banning their use made sharing information in the war theaters more difficult and reflected the severity of the intrusion and the threat from agent.btz, a second official said.

Officials would not describe the exact threat from agent.btz, or say whether it could shut down computers or steal information. Some computer experts have reported that agent.btz can allow an attacker to take control of a computer remotely and to take files and other information from it.

In response to the attack, the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the military's cyberspace defenses, has raised the security level for its so-called information operations condition, or "INFOCON," initiating enhanced security measures on military networks.
Cyber attacks of this nature has worried our government for years and while much has been done to protect our computer networking systems, a good hacker or a government that utilizes them can do a massive amount of damage to a country or countries.

Previous news about cyber terrorism

Cyber Attacks Black Out Cities Outside The U.S.--Cyber Terrorism

Will an Internet "Jihad" Be More Than A Hiccup For The U.S.