Archive for the ‘cyber war’ Category

China has accelerated computer espionage

November 20, 2008

China has accelerated computer espionage attacks on the U.S. government, defense contractors and American businesses, a congressional advisory panel said Thursday.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also said in its annual report to lawmakers that aggressive Chinese space programs are allowing Beijing to more effectively target U.S. military forces.

“China is stealing vast amounts of sensitive information from U.S. computer networks,” said Larry Wortzel, chairman of the commission set up by Congress in 2000 to advise, investigate and report on U.S.-China issues.

The commission of six Democrats and six Republicans said in the unanimously approved report that China’s massive military modernization and its “impressive but disturbing” space and computer warfare capabilities “suggest China is intent on expanding its sphere of control even at the expense of its Asian neighbors and the United States.”

By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer

The commission recommended that lawmakers provide money for U.S. government programs that would monitor and protect computer networks.

Messages left with the Chinese Embassy in Washington were not immediately returned.

But officials in Beijing have responded to past reports of this kind by saying that China does not try to undermine other countries’ interests and seeks strong ties with the United States.

The report comes two months before President-elect Barack Obama takes office. The Democratic Obama administration probably will continue the Republican Bush administration‘s efforts to work with and encourage China, a veto-holding member of the U.N. Security Council that the United States needs in nuclear confrontations with Iran and North Korea.

During the campaign for president, then-candidate Obama said that “China is rising, and it’s not going away,” adding that Beijing is “neither our enemy nor our friend; they’re competitors.”

In the commission’s report, military strategist Wang Huacheng is quoted as calling U.S. dependence on space assets and information technology its “soft ribs.”

China’s space program is “steadily increasing the vulnerability of U.S. assets,” the report said. For instance, improvements in satellite imagery allow China to locate U.S. carrier battle groups more accurately, faster and from farther away.

People’s Liberation Army officer and author Cai Fengzhen is quoted as saying that the “area above ground, airspace and outer space are inseparable and integrated. They are the strategic commanding height of modern informationalized warfare.”

“If this becomes Chinese policy,” the report said, “it could set the stage for conflict with the United States and other nations that expect the right of passage for their spacecraft.”

The commission also criticized China for violating commitments to avoid trade-distorting measures, adopting new laws that may restrict foreign access to China’s markets and keeping its currency undervalued.

It recommended that Congress enact legislation to respond to China’s currency manipulation and create enforceable disclosure requirements on investments in the United States for foreign sovereign wealth funds and other foreign state-controlled companies.

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Estonian Spy Sent U.S. Missile Defense and Other NATO Secrets to Russia

November 19, 2008

A high-ranking Estonian defence official has been charged with treason, accused of passing sensitive NATO information to the Russian government for the past several years.

Estonian sources told Peace and Freedom that Herbert Simm of Estonia has sold US Eastern Euro defense plan, computer codes, missle defense secrets to Russia.

Spy
Above: Herbert Simm
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Current.com

According to the British newspaper “The Times”, Herman Simm, a former Estonian Defence Ministry official, could have passed top NATO secrets to Russia. Simm, who was arrested in September under charges of espionage and treason, was responsible for handling all of the country’s classified information incoming from NATO and other allied countries.

“The Times” calls it the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War. Because of his high profile, it is suspected he might have also assisted in letting through other Russian agents.

Estonia is a former Soviet republic, but has one of the more succesful economies amongst former Eastern block countries. Thanks to government efforts, the computer literacy and public IT infrastucture are at a very high level. However, the country has had problems dealing with Russia – this included mass riots after a decision to move a Soviet war memorial, and a massive cyber-attack on the country’s infrastructure that ensued right afterwards. The attack was traced back to Russia, with many suspecting the Russian government of organising it.

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Times (UK)

A spy at the heart of Nato may have passed secrets on the US missile shield and cyber-defence to Russian Intelligence, it has emerged.

Herman Simm, 61, an Estonian defence ministry official who was arrested in September, was responsible for handling all of his country’s classified information at Nato, giving him access to every top-secret graded document from other alliance countries.

He was recruited by the Russians in the late 1980s and has been charged in Estonia with supplying information to a foreign power.

Several investigation teams from both the EU and Nato, under the supervision of a US officer, have flown to the Estonian capital Tallinn to assess the scope of what is being seen as the most serious case of espionage against Nato since the end of the Cold War.

Read the rest:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5166227.ece

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NATO

New Net Reality: Hijacked Web, Deluge of Data Bringing Down Entire Corporate Networks

November 10, 2008

Attackers bent on shutting down large Web sites — even the operators that run the backbone of the Internet — are arming themselves with what are effectively vast digital fire hoses capable of overwhelming the world’s largest networks, according to a new report on online security.

By John Markoff
The International Herald Tribune

In these attacks, computer networks are hijacked to form so-called botnets that spray random packets of data in huge streams over the Internet. The deluge of data are meant to bring down Web sites and entire corporate networks. Known as distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks, such cyberweapons are now routinely used during political and military conflicts, as in Estonia in 2007 during a political fight with Russia, and in the Georgian-Russian war last summer. Such attacks are also being used in blackmail schemes and political conflicts, as well as for general malicious mischief.

A survey of 70 of the largest Internet operators in North America, South America, Europe and Asia found that malicious attacks were rising sharply and that the individual attacks were growing more powerful and sophisticated, according to the Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report. This report is produced annually by Arbor Networks, a company in Lexington, Massachusetts, that provides tools for monitoring the performance of networks.

The report, which will be released Tuesday, shows that the largest attacks have grown steadily in size to over 40 gigabits, from less than half a megabit, over the last seven years. The largest network connections generally available today carry 10 gigabits of data, meaning that they can be overwhelmed by the most powerful attackers.

The Arbor Networks researchers said a 40-gigabit attack took place this year when two rival criminal cybergangs began quarreling over control of an online Ponzi scheme. “This was, initially, criminal-on-criminal crime though obviously the greatest damage was inflicted on the infrastructure used by the criminals,” the network operator wrote in a note on the attack.

Read the rest:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/10/technology/10attacks.php

Chinese Hackers Penetrate White House Computers

November 7, 2008

The White House computer system was penetrated numerous times by Chinese hackers, the Financial Times reported Friday.
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From Fox News 

The cyber attackers obtained e-mails between government officials and stole information before U.S. computer experts fixed the system, a senior U.S. official told the Financial Times.

U.S. government cyber intelligence experts suspect the attacks were sponsored by the Chinese government because of their targeted nature. They added that it is difficult to trace the exact source of an attack beyond a server in a particular country.

Newsweek magazine reported Wednesday that a foreign power hacked into the computer systems of both John McCain’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

Obama’s team concluded on its own that the hackers were Russian or Chinese and probably were seeking foreign policy information.

A federal law enforcement source confirmed the Newsweek story to FOX News and described the incident as “fairly significant.”
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By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Financial Times (UK)

Chinese hackers have penetrated the White House computer network on multiple occasions, and obtained e-mails between government officials, a senior US official told the Financial Times.

On each occasion, the cyber attackers accessed the White House computer system for brief periods, allowing them enough time to steal information before US computer experts patched the system.

Read the rest:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2931c542-ac35-11dd-bf71-000077b07658,Authorised=false.ht
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m%2Fstory%2F0%2C2933%2C448626%2C00.html&nclick_check=1

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From June 22, 2007

Pentagon E-Mail Hacked

From ARS Technica
At a Department of Defense media roundtable yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed that an incursion by hackers was responsible for a Pentagon e-mail outage that occurred Wednesday and disrupted e-mail service for over 1,500 Pentagon workers.

According to Gates, portions of the Pentagon e-mail system were disabled in response to hacking activity. “Elements of the OSD unclassified e-mail system were taken offline yesterday afternoon, due to a detected penetration,” said Gates, according to a transcript of the event published by the Defense Department. “We obviously have redundant systems in place, and there is no anticipated adverse impact on ongoing operations. There will be some administrative disruptions and personal inconveniences.”

Although Gates claims that the circumstances behind….

Read the rest:
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070622-pentagon-
e-mail-pwned-by-hackers.html

Related:
Cyber Security: World Bank “Invited” Attack; “Gave Away” Millions of Dollars Through IT Office

Day One Obama faces Cold War threat, a warning from Israel

November 7, 2008

With barely time to savour his triumph, Barack Obama has been confronted with various international crises to test his mettle.

The U.S. President-elect faces threats from Russia, Israel and Afghanistan as it emerged his election team’s computers were hacked by a ‘foreign entity’ during the election.

Officials at the FBI and the White House believe the hackers sought to gather information on the evolution of both his and Senator John McCain’s policy positions with the idea of using that information in negotiations with the next administration.

Obama technical experts later speculated the hackers were Russian or Chinese, and security ended the intrusion, Newsweek reported.

By David Gardner
The Mail (UK)

The first of the challenges thrown at the President-elect, who received his first national security intelligence briefing yesterday, came from the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

He threatened to base warheads along the Polish border if Obama goes ahead with a Bush administration plan to create a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Then Israel warned Obama last night that his claim that he was ready to open talks with Iran could be seen in the Middle East as a sign of weakness.

Furthermore, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai demanded that Obama ‘put an end to civilian casualties’ by changing U.S. military tactics to avoid airstrikes in the war on the Taliban. He spoke out after seven wedding party guests were accidentally killed by an American airstrike.

Read the rest and follow the links:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1083501/
Day-One-Obama-faces-Cold-War-threat-warning-Israel–
armed-guard-to-gym.html


Secret Service takes the President Elect to the gym

47% of Internet software “exploits” first half of 2008 in Chinese

November 4, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Chinese computer users have become chief targets for online criminals, according to a security report released Monday by Microsoft.

The global software giant’s latest assessment of threats and vulnerabilities reveals that attackers favor hiding malicious programs in seemingly innocent Web browser applications and that China is their preferred target.

Ben Wang, director of Florida State's High-performance Materials ...
Above: Ben Wang’s screen looks like your computer after an “intrusion” or “exploit.”

“The majority of (exploits) we are finding is where the local language is set to Chinese,” said Microsoft malware protection center general manager Vinny Gullotto.

“It reflects a lot of what is happening in the Chinese market. There is so much going on out there with the Internet today that it seems to be somewhat natural that we might see this happen there.”

Approximately 47 percent of software “exploits” found stalking the Internet in the first half of 2008 were in Chinese while 23 percent were in English, the second most common language for attack programs.

These include programs which can record a user’s keystrokes or steal passwords and credit card and banking information.

Microsoft security watchdogs say they find higher computer-infection rates in developing countries where fledgling Internet users aren’t savvy to tricks and traps used by hackers and online criminals.

“They are exploring this whole new world and not thinking about what problems they might face,” Gullotto said.

The weapons of choice for online attacks are “Trojan Horses,” software applications hidden inside programs that computer users are duped or coaxed into downloading, according to the Microsoft report.

“The area of concern specifically is browser-based exploits,” Gullotto said.

“If you are out surfing the Web, good or bad, there is the possibility some exploit on that page is going to take advantage of you and compromise some information on your computer.”

Overall, the number of computer vulnerabilities was down 19 percent in the first half of this year as compared to the same period in 2007. A higher amount of the vulnerabilities that do exist are ranked “high severity.”

“Updating is vitally important,” Gullotto said of protecting computers by keeping operating systems and other software current.

“The newer technology you have in the environment the more secure situation you are going to be in — infection rates come down dramatically.”

 Related:
Cyber Security: World Bank “Invited” Attack; “Gave Away” Millions of Dollars Through IT Office

Cyber Security: World Bank “Invited” Attack; “Gave Away” Millions of Dollars Through IT Office

November 2, 2008

The World Bank’s information security officer, a native of Sri Lanka,  set up a no-interest, $53 million bank loan to Sri Lanka’s government to help wire up that nation’s communications infrastructure — bypassing the World Bank’s normal vetting officials.

Over the past year, as FOX News reported three weeks ago, the bank has suffered a series of Internet attacks that penetrated at least 18 and perhaps as many as 40 of the bank’s data servers. Moreover, spyware was apparently installed on computers inside the bank’s treasury unit in Washington.

By Richard Behar
Fox News

In 1997, Mohamed Vazir Muhsin, a Sri Lankan accountant, was chosen by then-World Bank President James Wolfensohn as the first chief information officer in the institution’s history. Eight years later, Muhsin was unceremoniously thrown out the door, and the bank’s information security headaches reached migraine stage.

Early on in his tenure, Muhsin selected Satyam Computer Services, one of India’s largest and fastest-growing technology firms, to create and maintain the software programs that would make the bank’s information infrastructure into one of the world’s most important data bases. Both sides found the deal highly beneficial.

World Bank building at Washington.jpg
Above: World Bank, Washington D.C.

By late 2005, when he was accused of improper ties with Satyam and ousted from the bank, “Mohamed was arguably the most powerful person in the bank,” one insider who worked closely with Muhsin told FOX News.

So powerful, in fact, that he was able to conceive and arrange a bank loan in 2003 to his native Sri Lanka — bypassing the department that would normally have approved it. The project, known as “e-Sri Lanka,” involved a no-interest, $53 million bank loan to Sri Lanka’s government to help wire up that nation’s communications infrastructure.

The loan was highly controversial. At one stage, bank officials suspended the project after complaints that the World Bank’s information technology department had no business arranging loans to any government — let alone to one of “the world’s most unstable countries,” as the World Bank labeled strife-torn Sri Lanka in 2004. But after a Muhsin protege took charge of the bank’s South Asia department, the project moved ahead that same year without any further delays.

Read the rest:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,445845,00.html

NATO confronting new threats

April 2, 2008
By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer

BUCHAREST, Romania – NATO‘s latest security worries go far beyond Taliban fighters or al-Qaida extremists: They include computer hackers, threats to global energy supplies and climate change profiteers.
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World leaders gathered in Bucharest for this week’s NATO summit are debating what role the trans-Atlantic alliance can play in containing “cyberterrorists,” “hacktivists” and other emerging menaces that experts concede are untraditional, but still potentially lethal.

NATO needs to gear up for “iWar” — systematic attacks on the Web that could disrupt commerce worldwide by using crippling computer worms to shut down consumer online services such as Internet banking — warns Johnny Ryan, a researcher with the Institute of International and European Affairs.

“iWar will proliferate quickly and can be waged by anyone with an Internet connection,” Ryan cautioned in an analysis for NATO.

“In the short term, iWar poses a gathering threat to NATO members,” he said. “NATO must approach the problem as an immediate threat and strive to develop practical defensive cooperation.”

NATO member Estonia suffered a series of paralyzing and economically devastating cybercrime attacks last year that it blamed on Russia, which has denied involvement.

The attacks “raise questions about the alliance’s ability to protect its newest members,” said Stanley Kober, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Securing vulnerable energy infrastructure may be an even more pressing concern, NATO officials said Wednesday as the summit got under way.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has been pushing for a new “strategic concept” that would define the alliance’s role in dealing with the threat.

“Many of these challenges will not trigger a classical military response. But they will require allies to support each other — politically, economically, and perhaps also militarily,” de Hoop Scheffer told a security forum in Brussels, Belgium, last month.

His spokesman, James Appathurai, told reporters Wednesday that the 26 NATO allies hoped this week to lay the groundwork for a new blueprint on how to tackle evolving security challenges.

Energy has also become a worry for NATO as Russia tightens control of its most important natural gas fields. Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy monopoly, controls key pipelines that supply gas to Western Europe.

The U.S. is prodding NATO to take a larger role in energy security — something Washington considers a major post-Cold War menace.

“I think there’s an increasing recognition in the United States that these are growing issues,” said Stephen Larrabee, a senior security analyst for the RAND Corp. think tank.

Climate change — already a major concern on a wide range of fronts — is starting to preoccupy NATO as well.

De Hoop Scheffer says the alliance may have to be ready to protect food and water supplies if global warming makes them scarce and tensions create enough economic or political instability to nudge nations to the brink of war.

EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana gave a bleak assessment in a March 3 report warning that climate change threatens to undermine international security.

“It is important to recognize that the risks are not just of a humanitarian nature — they also include political and security risks that directly affect European interests,” the report says, warning: “Unmitigated climate change … will lead to unprecedented security scenarios.”

But any attempt to push the new threats to the forefront likely will run into resistance from allies pressing NATO to get back to basics, said Julianne Smith, Europe program director for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Many countries would like to see NATO return to its core mission,” she said. “I just find it hard to believe that NATO is going to be able to reach consensus on any of these issues.”

NATO’s core function is defined in its 1949 founding treaty, which states that all members will come to each others’ aid if any are attacked by an outside power.

Military to boost cyber-protections

March 19, 2008
By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – The military is beefing up efforts to gather intelligence, fend off cyber-attacks and improve relations with other nations as part of a strategy for keeping the U.S. safe while fighting two wars, according to a Pentagon document.

The four-page plan acknowledges there is still a significant risk that the military cannot quickly and fully respond to another outbreak in the world and outlines what must be done to counter that threat.

This undated photo released by the Walter Arts Museum shows ...
This undated photo released by the Walter Arts Museum shows a 1982 schematic of the first Internet, which then consisted of only 88 computers, linked as shown in this diagram-like map titled ‘Joyce Reynolds, ARPANET, the  First Internet.’  
(AP Photo/Private Collection, Virginia)

Sent to Congress by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and obtained by The Associated Press, the plan relies heavily on building partnerships with other countries. It accompanied a classified risk assessment compiled by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, seen ...
Admiral Mike Mullen

Read the rest:
 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080319/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/military_risk_
assessment;_ylt=ApTXlJ78JqiOwPS1CsWM7zWs0NUE

Chinese hackers: No site is safe (even Pentagon)

March 8, 2008
By John Vause
CNN 

ZHOUSHAN, China (CNN) — They operate from a bare apartment on a Chinese island. They are intelligent 20-somethings who seem harmless. But they are hard-core hackers who claim to have gained access to the world’s most sensitive sites, including the Pentagon.
art.hacker1.cnn.jpg 
The leader of these Chinese hackers says there “is always a weakness” on networks that allows cyber break-ins.

In fact, they say they are sometimes paid secretly by the Chinese government — a claim the Beijing government denies.

“No Web site is one hundred percent safe. There are Web sites with high-level security, but there is always a weakness,” says Xiao Chen, the leader of this group.

“Xiao Chen” is his online name. Along with his two colleagues, he does not want to reveal his true identity. The three belong to what some Western experts say is a civilian cyber militia in China, launching attacks on government and private Web sites around the world.

Read the rest:
 http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/03/07/china.hackers/index.html