Pentagon: 24,000 files stolen in cyberattack
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Last Updated: Friday, July 15, 2011, 09:39
Washington: A foreign intelligence service stole 24,000 computer files in March from a defence contractor developing systems for the US military, a top Pentagon official said on Friday.

"This was significant," Deputy Defence Secretary William Lynn told reporters.

"I don't think it set us back in terms of the development of the system," Lynn said, but the cyber attack on the unidentified contractor had "compromised information."

Lynn said the attackers swiped "data related to systems that are being developed for the Department of Defence."

"It was large -- 24,000 files," he said. "It was done, we think, by a foreign intelligence service. In other words a nation state was behind it," he said.

Lynn declined to identify any suspects. "We don't get into our understanding of exactly who it was," he said.

The Pentagon official said the attack was "just the latest in a series" and not the largest ever on a US defense contractor.

"We've been getting hit for the better half of five or six years in a serious way," Lynn said at an event during which he unveiled the Pentagon's strategy for cyberspace.

Cyber intruders have been so effective that even companies employing sophisticated commercial defenses have also fallen victim, he added.

"This kind of cyber exploitation does not have the sudden payoff of a bank heist or the dramatic impact of a conventional military attack. But by blunting our edge in military technology, and enabling foreign competitors to copy the fruits of our commercial innovation, it has a deeply corrosive effect over the long-term.

It is hard to know how much damage this digital thievery does to our economic competitiveness and national security, but a recent estimate pegged cumulative economic losses at over a trillion dollars," he said.

Lynn said if a terrorist group gains disruptive or destructive cyber tools, one has to assume they will strike with little hesitation.

And it is clear that terrorist groups, as well as rogue states, are intent on acquiring, refining, and expanding their cyber capabilities, he added.

Revealing the new cyber strategy, Lynn said Defense Department is treating cyberspace as an operational domain, like land, air, sea, and space.

Treating cyberspace as a domain means that the military needs to operate and defend its networks, and to organize, train, and equip its forces to perform cyber missions.

"Second, we are introducing new operating concepts on our networks, including active *cyber* defenses. These active defenses use sensors, software, and signatures to detect and stop malicious code before it affects our operations-thereby denying the benefit of an attack," he said.

"The third and fourth pillars of our strategy recognize the interconnectedness of cyberspace and the diversity of uses to which it is put, by individuals, in our economies, and across nations," he said.

On the international front, he said, the US has partnered with Australia, Canada, Britain, and its NATO allies.

"Under the President's International Strategy, we will seek greater cooperation with more nations in the coming months," he said.


First Published: Friday, July 15, 2011, 09:39

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