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Several countries trying to hack into US military system: Pentagon

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 4, 2007
Several nations and groups are trying to break into the US military's computer system, the Pentagon said Tuesday after reports China's military had successfully hacked into the network.

The Chinese military's cyber-attack was carried out in June following months of efforts, the London-based Financial Times reported Tuesday, citing unnamed current and former US officials.

Officials had told the paper the attack was by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) and that it led to the shutdown of a computer system serving the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Patrick Ryder, a US Defense Department spokesman, declined to comment on the reported Chinese attack but said the Pentagon "aggressively monitors its networks for intrusions and has appropriate procedures to address" them.

"We know that a number of nations and groups are actively developing these capabilities," he told AFP.

"We have seen attempts by a variety of state and non-state sponsored organizations to gain unauthorized access to, or otherwise degrade, DoD (Department of Defense) information systems," he said without identifying them.

Ryder said the department would not comment specifically on investigations underway or incidents for obvious reasons.

It also would not discuss details of the potential impact to its networks, operations or protection efforts and strategies.

Without referring to the Chinese attack, Ryder said that late last spring -- around the time the reported Chinese military hacking took place -- the "unclassified" email system at Defense Secretary Gates' office was briefly taken off-line due to a "detected penetration."

"All precautionary measures were taken and the system was restored to service soon afterward," he said.

The department, he said, had back-up systems in place and there was no damage done to its operations.

"There were some minor administrative disruptions and personal inconveniences."

One senior US official said the Pentagon had pinpointed the exact origin of the attack, the Financial Times reported.

"The PLA has demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks that disable our system," the paper quoted a former US official as saying.

The US State Department said Washington would raise the issue with Beijing if it confirms that the Chinese military was behind the attack.

"Certainly, though, I'm sure if there is any reason to believe that there was a incident that was sponsored by the Chinese government or any other government in terms of computer hacking or attacks on US government systems, that we would certainly raise that with them," said Tom Casey, a department spokesman.

While denying the accusations, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu in Beijing said there were some in the United States who were seeking to undermine Sino-US military relations.

Reports of China hacking into German government systems were also raised last week between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The German weekly Der Spiegel reported that espionage programs traced to the PLA had been detected in computer systems at Merkel's office, the foreign ministry and other government agencies in Berlin.

Typical methods of hacking the Pentagon computer system involve "compromising and using" intermediate hosts, making it difficult to identify the "true origination point," Ryder said.

"What I can tell you is that there are millions of scans of the DoD Global Information Grid per day and we defend in depth every day," he said.

The nature of the threat is "large and diverse."

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Several countries trying to hack into US military system: Pentagon
Washington (AFP) Sept 4, 2007
Several nations and groups are trying to break into the US military's computer system, the Pentagon said Tuesday after reports China's military had successfully hacked into the network.

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