By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 25, 2009
LINTHICUM, Md. -- At 2:42 p.m. one recent Wednesday, on the fourth floor
of a squat brick office building under the flight path of jets landing
at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, a Pentagon
analyst skilled in parsing malicious computer code e-mailed a threat
alert to 28 of the nation's largest defense contractors.
That morning, a defense company had told the Defense Department Cyber
Crime Center about a significant probe of its computer network. The
Pentagon analysts determined the code was present in several companies'
networks and raised the alarm.
This information exchange took place, government and industry officials
said, because the companies and the Pentagon have begun to trust one
another. They are joining forces to stem the loss of important defense
industry data -- by some estimates at least $100 billion worth in the
past two years, reflecting the cost to produce the data and its value to
For two years, the Defense Department has been collaborating with
industry to try to better protect the firms' computer networks. Now, as
the Obama administration ponders how to strengthen the nation's defenses
against cyberattacks, it is considering ways to share the Pentagon's
threat data with other critical industries, such as those that handle
vastly larger amounts of data, including phone calls and private
e-mails. The threat scenarios, experts say, are chilling: a months-long
blackout of much of the United States, wide-scale corruption of
electronic banking data, a disabling of the air traffic control system.