Feeds

Pentagon confirms attack breached classified network

'Network administrator's worst fear'

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

The Pentagon has opened the kimono on what it described as the “most significant breach of US military computers ever,” in which a flash drive in 2008 was used to infect large numbers of computers, including those used by the Central Command overseeing combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When the device was plugged into a military laptop located on an undisclosed base in the Middle East, malicious code soon linked highly sensitive machines to networks controlled by an unnamed foreign intelligence agency, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III wrote in the first official account of the episode.

“That code spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control,” he wrote in an article to be published Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.

“It was a network administrator's worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary.”

Military officials responded with a counter attack known as Operation Buckshot Yankee, which Lynn characterized as a turning point in the Pentagon's computer defense strategy. Among the steps initially taken was the banning of USB devices by the Defense Department, a curb that has since been modified slightly.

The account, included in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, comes almost two years after The Los Angeles Times reported an unofficial account of the incident, that claimed it most likely originated in Russia. Wednesday's article signals attempts by the Pentagon to raise awareness to the growing vulnerability of the US military to computer-based attacks, which often allow adversaries with modest means to inflict disproportionate damage.

“A dozen determined computer programmers can, if they find a vulnerability to exploit, threaten the United States's global logistics network, steal its operational plans, blind its intelligence capabilities or hinder its ability to deliver weapons on target,” Lynn wrote.

Last month, a retired US general made many of the same points, comparing the network world to the highly vulnerable North German plain that has been invaded repeatedly over the past several centuries.

More coverage from The New York Times is here. Wired.com has an article here saying some Defense Department insiders doubt the attack was the work of a hostile government. ®

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.