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Cyber-attack on Defense Department computers raises concerns

Cyber-attack on Defense Department computers raises concerns
Cyber-attack on Defense Department computers raises concerns,0,6441140.story 

By Julian E. Barnes
Los Angeles Times
November 28, 2008

Reporting from Washington -- 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 

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.

"This one was significant; this one got our attention," said one defense 
official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing internal 

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.


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