By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington and
Richard McGregor in Beijing
September 3 2007
The Chinese military hacked into a Pentagon computer network in June in
the most successful cyber attack on the US defence department, say
The Pentagon acknowledged shutting down part of a computer system
serving the office of Robert Gates, defence secretary, but declined to
say who it believed was behind the attack.
Current and former officials have told the Financial Times an internal
investigation has revealed that the incursion came from the Peoples
One senior US official said the Pentagon had pinpointed the exact
origins of the attack. Another person familiar with the event said there
was a very high level of confidence...trending towards total certainty
that the PLA was responsible. The defence ministry in Beijing declined
to comment on Monday.
Angela Merkel, Germanys chancellor, raised reports of Chinese
infiltration of German government computers with Wen Jiabao, Chinas
premier, in a visit to Beijing, after which the Chinese foreign ministry
said the government opposed and forbade any criminal acts undermining
computer systems, including hacking.
We have explicit laws and regulations in this regard, said Jiang Yu,
from the ministry. Hacking is a global issue and China is frequently a
George W. Bush, US president, is due to meet Hu Jintao, Chinas
president, on Thursday in Australia prior to the Apec summit.
The PLA regularly probes US military networks and the Pentagon is
widely assumed to scan Chinese networks but US officials said the
penetration in June raised concerns to a new level because of fears that
China had shown it could disrupt systems at critical times.
The PLA has demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks that disable our
system...and the ability in a conflict situation to re-enter and disrupt
on a very large scale, said a former official, who said the PLA had
penetrated?the?networks?of US defence companies and think-tanks.
Hackers from numerous locations in China spent several months probing
the Pentagon system before overcoming its defences, according to people
familiar with the matter.
The Pentagon took down the network for more than a week while the
attacks continued, and is to conduct a comprehensive diagnosis. These
are multiple wake-up calls stirring us to levels of more aggressive
vigilance, said Richard Lawless, the Pentagons top Asia official at the
time of the attacks.
The Pentagon is still investigating how much data was downloaded, but
one person with knowledge of the attack said most of the information was
probably unclassified. He said the event had forced officials to
reconsider the kind of information they send over unsecured e-mail
John Hamre, a Clinton-era deputy defence secretary involved with cyber
security, said that while he had no knowledge of the June attack,
criminal groups sometimes masked cyber attacks to make it appear they
came from government computers in a particular country.
The National Security Council said the White House had created a team of
experts to consider whether the administration needed to restrict the
use of BlackBerries because of concerns about cyber espionage.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
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