Security: Whacking Hackers

Security: Whacking Hackers
Security: Whacking Hackers 

By Mark Hosenball
Oct. 15, 2007 issue 

In a single case this summer, an attack by hackers disabled a reported 
1,500 Pentagon computers. And the siege is continuing. The Defense 
Department detects 3 million unauthorized "scans"or attempts by would-be 
intruders to access official networkson its computers every day, 
according to a Pentagon spokesman. Now the Bush administration, worried 
particularly about computer attacks from China, is aiming to beef up 
American defenses. According to officials in the cybersecurity industry, 
who like several sources quoted in this article did not want to be named 
discussing confidential programs, the White House is quietly preparing a 
major "cyberdefense" initiative to be announced later this year.

It won't be the first such effort. Shortly before the U.S. invasion of 
Iraq, the White House announced a new cybersecurity strategy that 
eventually foundered, according to Roger Cressey, a former 
counterterrorism adviser in both the Clinton and current 
administrations. Given the recent success that hackers have had 
penetrating U.S. government networks, says Cressey, a new campaign to 
bolster security is "overdue."

The hackers are hunting for vulnerabilities at government agencies both 
in the United States and abroad. A European security official says that 
investigators have succeeded in identifying attackers who hit computers 
in the office of a European head of government: specific units of the 
Chinese militarythe People's Liberation Armyin Shanghai and Beijing. But 
the official says that when Chinese leaders were confronted about the 
case, they denied any involvement.

The new U.S. program is a work in progress. But measures under 
consideration include giving authority to the National Security Agency 
to monitor private computer systemswhich could prompt new 
domestic-spying concernsand purchasing network routers that are more 
secure. Spokespeople for the NSA, the director of National Intelligence 
and the Pentagonall of whom are expected to play a role in the new 
planreferred questions to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS 
spokesman Russ Knocke also declined to discuss any forthcoming 
computer-security plan.

Copyright 2007 Newsweek, Inc.

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