[ISN] US' 'Soft, Digital Underbelly'

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri Jun 12 1998 - 09:31:01 PDT

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    Forwarded From: Aleph One <aleph1at_private>
       US' 'Soft, Digital Underbelly'
       1:10pm  11.Jun.98.PDT
       WASHINGTON -- The head of a new US cyber law-enforcement agency says a
       half dozen substantial attacks have been launched against government
       computer systems since February.
       "A good percentage of the incidents we see ... involve [the Department
       of Defense], because DOD is such a prime target for even individual
       hackers who want to test their skills," said Michael Vatis, the chief
       of the National Infrastructure Protection Center of the FBI. "They see
       the Department of Defense as the big banana, the final exam, the
       ultimate challenge to test their skills."
       Vatis testified Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on
       Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information, which met to hear
       from administration officials about the latest steps to counter
       attacks on critical US computer infrastructure.
       Vatis refused to elaborate on the attacks, saying pending
       investigations prevented him from doing so. But Vatis did respond to
       lawmakers when asked how many attacks he had witnessed since February
       -- when his agency was created -- were considered "substantial" and
       separate from routine hacks.
       "I would say somewhere in the vicinity of a half dozen of what I would
       consider substantial," he said. "Ones that we are still investigating
       to determine in fact whether they are significant or whether they're
       really part of the noise that exists almost everyday."
       Those attacks would include breaches by the Isreali teenage cracker
       known as Analyzer, who in February claimed to have gained
       high-level access to as many as 400 unclassified government and
       military computer systems, and an attack on other federal networks
       believed to have been carried out by two teenagers whom Analyzer
       claimed to have tutored.
       Senators were also briefed on last year's Department of Defense
       exercise, which exposed US vulnerabilities to cyber attack.
       The National Infrastructure Protection Center was formed to root out
       and investigate unlawful acts involving intrusions and other threats
       against vital infrastructures.
       Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl, the subcommittee chairman, said
       the US should gird for a cyber attack against military computers with
       the same urgency as the military prepared for more traditional
       physical attacks.
       "Today, because of the networked nature of our critical
       infrastructures, our enemies needn't risk attacking our strong
       military if they can much more easily attack our soft, digital
       underbelly," Kyl said.
       Last month, President Clinton signed two directives designed to
       strengthen defenses against terrorism and other unconventional
       threats. At the same time, working groups comprised of experts from
       the public and private sectors were formed to produce a coordinated
       Administration studies showed that an attack by a foreign government,
       or by domestic or foreign terrorists, could not only harm military
       operations but disrupt banking and finance, cause power outages,
       interrupt transportation nodes, and crash entire communications
       Vatis said some of the immediate concerns include determining a
       budget, creating an attack detection and warning system, determining
       legal authority and legislative requirements, and devising a cohesive
       intelligence collection process.
       In late February, the Pentagon and FBI investigated a series of
       successful efforts by crackers to obtain information from military
       computers. The break-ins came at the same time US forces were being
       marshaled for a possible attack on Iraq.
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