Defense worries insiders are helping hackers

The recent string of well-publicized attacks on Defense Department systems seems
to indicate a new, more complex modus operandi for perpetrators, security experts warned
last week.

Defense officials confirmed last week that a major cyberattack against its critical
information systems has been under way for several months.

Deputy Defense secretary John Hamre briefed the House Armed Services Committee on the
cyberattacks during a closed meeting Feb. 23, committee staff members said. Hamre warned
lawmakers that the hack attempts were part of a coordinated effort that may involve
cooperation of military staff insiders, officials said.

The hackers have not tapped any top-secret information because those systems are not
connected to the Internet, Defense Information Systems Agency spokeswoman Betsy Flood
said. Law enforcement and intelligence authorities are investigating the attacks, she

Information technology has strengthened and streamlined military operations, but
technology has also opened up U.S. systems to new vulnerabilities, Hamre said last week at
an open hearing of the House Armed Services subcommittees on Military Procurement and on
Military R&D.

“Our dependence on these systems and their ubiquity in every aspect of our
operations has made us vulnerable should they be disrupted,” he said. “The same
technologies we employ to such advantage are readily and cheaply available to our

DOD and government must establish defenses that will defeat attacks from not only
adversaries and terrorists, but from the disaffected insider as well, “and the latter
is a significant challenge,” Hamre said.

The Pentagon detects 80 to 100 hacker events every day, and nearly one in 10 need
further investigation, he told House lawmakers.

In recent months, there has been a major shift in the way attacks are carried out,
security experts said. New tools available online let hackers automate their attacks, said
Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute of Bethesda, Md. 

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