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Malware spread explains Pentagon USB ban

Agent infection hardly much of a battle

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Pentagon systems and computers in warzones in Iraq and Afghanistan reportedly came under a malware-based attack last month. The infection promoted a recent ban of the use of USB stick and other forms of removable storage by the US military and also talk of cyberwar, which fails to stack up under close examination.

An intrusive piece of malware "designed specifically to target military networks" affected PCs in combat zones and penetrated one "highly protected classified network", the Los Angeles Times reports.

Malware and hacker attacks against military systems are all too commonplace but the threat posed by this attack was sufficient to prompt military leaders into arranging a briefing with the president.

The attack is said to originate from Russia. How much damage and inconvenience was caused by the assault remains unclear. But the circumstances of the attack hardly justify talk of cyberwarfare that the story has sparked.

The LA Times reports that the malware involved - identified as Agent-btz - has been in circulation for months, only recently affecting Pentagon systems, an observation at odds with the theory that the malware was designed to infect military systems.

It seems to have gotten into Afghanistan via an infected USB drive, a chain of events that goes a long way towards explaining why the US military recently suspended the use of removable storage devices. ®

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