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