100 foreign agencies test US networks: Official

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 10:44

Washington: More than 100 foreign intelligence agencies have tried to breach US defense networks, largely to steal military plans and weapons systems designs, a top Pentagon official has said.
Defense Secretary William Lynn said that while foreign governments and rogue states may try to launch more destructive attacks against military networks, most may stick to theft and spying because they are worried about a US counter attack.

He provided no details on the foreign cyberintrusions. The greater threat, he said, are terror groups such as al-Qaida, who are more difficult to deter because they have nothing to lose.

Terrorists have vowed to unleash cyberattacks, and over time may be able to either develop their own malicious computer threats or buy them on the black market.

Lynn`s remarks, made at a cybersecurity conference in San Francisco, come as the US government is struggling to ramp up its abilities to block cyberintrusions and to lay out policies for launching the high-tech attacks when needed.

US government sites are scanned and attacked millions of times a day, and there have been a number of serious breaches in recent years including into the electric grid and
Pentagon weapons contractors.

The biggest challenge faced by the US as it looks to better gird against attacks, Lynn said, is finding ways to share threat information with private industry which owns or operates as much as 85 per cent of the networks.

Those include much of the nation`s critical infrastructure, ranging from the electric grid, banking and other financial systems and nuclear power plants.

The idea raises privacy concerns with the prospect of US military or government eyes or ears on private networks. Lynn said the government`s intelligence capabilities give it broad knowledge of cyberthreats, and the US already shared unclassified information on a limited basis with defense companies that have sensitive data on their networks.

The challenge, he said, is developing the policies and legal structure so that classified information about threats can also be shared.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 10:44

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