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13 March 2008, 12:31

US military concerned about increasing cyber attacks

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The US Department of Defense is increasingly coming under fire from the internet. According to the Wall Street Journal, General Kevin Chilton, head of Strategic Command since October, has come to the conclusion that many of the attempts to penetrate the Pentagon's network originate in China. Such allegations are not new. Although Gen. Chilton recently abandoned official charges against China concerning the attacks on the Pentagon's mail server in June of 2007, he says that there are now clear indications that Chinese hackers are behind some of the attacks.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Gen. Chilton also believes Al Qaeda may be involved. The Pentagon's network reportedly has more than a million external visitors per day, most of whom are probably just visiting out of curiosity. And although he admits that a bored 16-year-old can also cause damage, this risk does not really worry him. He says he is more concerned about the possibility that organizations such as Al Qaeda or foreign states could be behind attacks. The security of US networks falls under the mandate of the Department of Homeland Security, which stepped up its search for security vulnerabilities this week in cooperation with government representatives from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and private firms.

The consequences of the attacks that took place last year are not officially clear yet, nor has it been established who was behind them. Only recently was it revealed that a large amount of data had been stolen. The "burglars" may have obtained access credentials for parts of the Defense Department's network by means of spoofing. Gen. Chiltern says the DoD has evidence that China's goal is "electronic dominance".

General Chilton also mentions reports that the Chinese Liberation Army wants to expand its military forces from land, air, and sea into cyberspace. China's military has apparently set up departments for "information warfare", where viruses are developed for attacks on enemy networks. The Chinese are also reportedly working to improve protection of their own IT infrastructure and the networks of allied countries. The Chinese government has rejected these claims, calling them the "result of distorted perceptions" and accusing the US of continuing its Cold War behaviour.


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