Senior military leaders took the exceptional step of briefing President Bush this week on a severe and widespread electronic attack on Defense Department computers that may have originated in Russia — an incursion that posed unusual concern among commanders and raised potential implications for national security.
Defense officials would not describe the extent of damage inflicted on military networks. But they said that the attack struck hard at networks within U.S. Central Command, the headquarters that oversees U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and affected computers in combat zones. The attack also penetrated at least one highly protected classified network.
Military computers are regularly beset by outside hackers, computer viruses and worms. But defense officials said the most recent attack involved an intrusive piece of malicious software, or “malware,” apparently designed specifically to target military networks.
Except that later on the article says that it is malware that has targeted non-military computers before. – post by TransTracker
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.
Well actually…it doesn’t underscore anything, and precisely because, as usual, we’re told to believe that it’s unique and really dangerous without any proof. And the now obligatory comparisons to past “attacks” consisting mainly of denial of service attacks, along with claims of uniqueness or firstness for types of attacks that have occured elsewhere before, don’t help either. – post by TransTracker
However, suspicions of Russian involvement come at an especially delicate time because of sagging relations between Washington and Moscow and growing tension over U.S. plans to develop a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
An electronic attack from Russia shut down government computers in Estonia in 2007. And officials believe that a series of electronic attacks were launched against Georgia at the same time that hostilities erupted between Moscow and Tbilisi last summer.
The first indication that the Pentagon was dealing with a computer problem came last week, when officials banned the use of external computer flash drives.
The invasive software, known as agent.btz, has circulated among nongovernmental U.S. computers for months. But only recently has it affected the Pentagon’s networks. It is not clear whether the version responsible for the cyber-intrusion of classified networks is the same as the one affecting other computer systems.
Then why the claim above that it has been “apparently been designed to target military networks”? Was it or was it not unique? – post by TransTracker
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.
What caused more damage to operations? The banning of flash drives widely used for information sharing or the banning of the drives in an attempt to prevent an ambiguous, potential future threat? – post by TransTracker
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.
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