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Army officials are concerned that skilled computer enthusiasts, and in particular those engaged by hostile military organisations, can hack into military weapons systems and control them remotely, Federal Computer Week reports. The potential exists for hackers to access computerised systems used for navigation and weapons targeting, US Army Information Assurance Program Manager Major Sheryl French explained during a recent military information management conference in Houston, Texas. According to the article, the US Department of Defence (DoD) has established through testing that a malicious hacker could penetrate the control systems of major weapons. According to a Defense Information Systems Agency training CD-ROM, an Air Force officer in a Boston hotel used a laptop computer to break into the computers of a Navy ship at sea, and implanted spurious data in its navigation systems. "This actually happened," the training module warns. "Fortunately, this was only a controlled test to see what could be done. In reality, the type of crime and its objective is limited only by people’s imagination and ability." But not everyone is losing sleep over the dark possibilities of cyber-warfare. Federation of American Scientists (FAS) defence and intelligence analyst John Pike says the threat can easily be exaggerated. Remotely hacking into weapons systems would be extremely difficult under highly-fluid battlefield conditions, Pike believes. "The problem for the enemy is that computer security vulnerabilities will almost certainly prove fleeting and unpredictable," he said. He described the true threat as a matter of random instances of harassment by the enemy. That's fine, so long as they don't gain access to strategic nuclear weapons systems, in which case a random instance of harassment could result in a nightmare of distinctly Biblical proportions. Meanwhile, the same newspaper reports that the US Army, forced to switch to Windows NT a few years back, is forward migrating its servers to systems running Web Star. The functionality may not be as good as NT or Linux, but they break far less easily. ®

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