Information Warfare: Third Chinese Hack Attack This Year

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December4, 2006: For the third time in five months, Chinese based hackers attacked a Department of Defense computer network. In mid-November, the U.S. Navy's War College had to shut down it's computer network because, as one instructor explained to his class, Chinese hackers had gotten in, and the Naval War College servers had to be scrutinized to see what was taken, changed or left behind. The is the latest of several attacks on Department of Defense computers, that could be traced back to China.

The Department of Defense has a lot to worry about, because they have more computers (about five million) than people (about three million). These PCs are operating on some 12,000 different networks, and most of these are in turn connected with the Internet.

Why attack the Navy War College? Mainly because that's where the navy does a lot of its planning for future wars. The strategy for the Pacific war during World War II was worked out at the Navy War College, and that planning tradition continues. Plus, the Chinese may have also found the War College networks to be more vulnerable.

A month earlier, Chinese hackers were caught trying to burrow their way into Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) systems. BIS is a section of the Commerce Department that has been fighting Chinese efforts to illegally obtain U.S. military technology and American trade secrets in general. Some BIS computers were so thoroughly infiltrated, that their hard drives had to be wiped clean and reloaded as if they were new machines. More worrisome is that this penetration effort, which went on for several days, may have gotten into places where its presence could not be detected. Or at least not detected yet. Naturally, there was no announcement of details that could give the hackers information on how they were detected, traced or otherwise deceived.

The Chinese government denies any involvement with any of these attacks. It is believed that U.S. government or military hackers make similar attacks on Chinese targets. That is not discussed much at all. Chinese computer networks are more vulnerable than U.S. ones, because of less well trained Internet staff, and less protective software and hardware. To deal with this, many Chinese government systems are not connected to the Internet at all. Their users must turn to another PC, that does have Internet access, but is not connected to the key government systems. Some U.S. government networks operate the same way, but most government networks, containing secret data, are accessible via the Internet. Chinese hackers were caught hacking into U.S. State Department networks last July.

 


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