British conservation group claims hacker had Navy Net address

An official with a British conservation group alleges that someone using a Navy
computer at the Pentagon tried to hack into the group’s server.

In an e-mail to the media, the group claimed that an unknown user at the Pentagon tried
and failed three times to breach a secure link on a Web server used by the Whale and
Dolphin Conservation Society located in Bath, England.

The alleged attempts occurred on April 28 around 3:45 p.m. EST and tripped an alarm in
the system’s security software. The WDCS webmaster then traced the hacking attempts
to, a server address at the Pentagon, WDCS said.

WDCS said it quickly alerted the American embassy in London, but a Navy spokesperson in
Washington said the service had not yet received a formal complaint.

“Until we receive the formal complaint and review what happened,” the Navy
spokesman said, “we can’t proceed further.

“The claim that someone at the Navy was identified as the end user is false,”
he said. “The address is a Navy server, a machine with thousands of end users. The
U.S. Navy has a strict policy against misuse of government material, including computer
hardware and software. Any allegation that any Navy material was used to conduct any
felony activity will be investigated.”

The WDCS had previously spoken out on “quite a few issues that involve the U.S.
Navy,” said Frances Clarke, WDCS’ campaign coordinator. The Navy had requested a
WDCS report on the export of former Soviet military dolphins several weeks before the
alleged hacking attempts, Clarke said. At the time, WDCS couldn’t release the
unfinished report, which was to be published at the end of May. Clarke said the alleged
hacker may have been a curious Navy researcher trying to “go too far.”

The WDCS monitors its Web site to analyze visitor interest, including monitoring the
frequency of hits and most-visited links. If visitors try to get to secure sites, the
security system kicks in and tracks their activities, Clarke said.

In this instance, the hacker “identified the software we’re using for the Web
server,” said Matt Penton, technical director of Merchant Technology Ltd. of Bath,
England, the Internet service provider used by the conservation society.

WDCS does not plan to pursue the matter further. The group’s goal is to “just
publicize the fact that they tried to do that so it doesn’t happen again,”
Clarke said. “We’re lucky we had a security system in place,” she said.

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