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Pwnd! Again!

chicago dyke's picture

I'm no computer expert, that's more than clear. But if I ran an important government agency that had a lot of sensitive information to deal with, I'd insist that computers in that department maintained the very highest levels of security. Why do I have the feeling that part of the reason we're reading about this, again, has to do with some crony no-bid contract and a couple of higher-ups who don't know how to use email?

State Department Computers Hacked
Large-Scale Computer Break-Ins Appeared To Target Specific Offices

(CBS/AP) The State Department is recovering from large-scale computer break-ins worldwide over the past several weeks that appeared to target its headquarters and offices dealing with China and North Korea, The Associated Press has learned.

Investigators believe hackers stole sensitive U.S. information and passwords, said U.S. officials familiar with the hacking. Whoever did the hacking reportedly tried to leave so-called back doors so they could come back later and keep intruding into the computers, CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the widespread intrusions and the resulting investigation.

The breach involves only the State Department’s unclassified computer system, reports CBS News' Charlie Wolfson. The department's classified system was not affected.

Um, sure. I believe you. No, really.

As a result of these break-ins, the State Department has had to severely limit Internet access at many locations. That, in turn, can have a detrimental effect on employees’ ability to get their regular work done, says CBS News technology analyst Larry Magid. So even if nothing were stolen, damage has been done.

Internet connections have been restored across nearly all the department since the break-ins were recognized in mid-June, the officials said.

"The department did detect anomalies in network traffic, and we thought it prudent to ensure our system's integrity," department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said. Asked what information was stolen by the hackers, Cooper said, "Because the investigation is continuing, I don't think we even know."

Tracing the origin of such break-ins is difficult. But employees told AP the hackers appeared to hit computers especially hard at headquarters and inside the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, which coordinates diplomacy in countries including China, the Koreas and Japan. In the tense weeks preceding North Korea's missile tests, that bureau lost its Internet connectivity for several days.

Stewart also reports that last summer, the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies noticed similar problems with their computers. Hackers in China were considered the culprits in that incident as well.

China's government was considered by experts a chief suspect in computer break-ins at the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies disclosed last summer. But China also is home to a large number of insecure computers and networks that hackers in other countries could use to disguise their locations and launch attacks.

The Pentagon warned earlier this year that China's army is emphasizing hacking as an offensive weapon. It cited Chinese military exercises in 2005 that included hacking "primarily in first strikes against enemy networks."

Damn skippy it's a good place for a first strike. Jeebus, it's tiresome to keep reading about this kind of incompetence. I'm starting to worry that not only is our New Military completely useless against a serious military threat, but that we're utterly lost the tech race, and that it would be a simple matter, in a serious conflict, to shut down all the central computers responsible for national defense.

Government readers: get a clue, please, I'm begging you. The folks at slashdot are ready and able to help, and if you have to import a couple of real experts from China, I'm sure they'd work cheap and be more than willing to live in the comforts of Arlington rather than a hovel in Shanghai.

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