December 7, 2008

Pentagon Cyber Attack

"... By my reckoning, if this reflects what the Chinese can do, one can only wonder at what the U.S. could achieve ..."

Several weeks later, more details and implications are emerging about the worm. What worm you ask? Curious is it not, what makes news and what does not, an interesting observation first made here. While MSM views it as a non- starter, last week the issue was serious enough to warrant a briefing for President Bush and Secretary Gates from Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Admittedly, Fox News touched on the attack late last month when it reported on the Defense departments ban on the use of external hardware devices throughout a vast network of military computers allegedly, after a U.S. Navy staff member lost classified information from a computer after inserting a flash drive infected with the global virus. Later, an unspecified Navy admiral described the virus as a worm that was spreading rapidly within military computer networks. Toward end of month, the LA Times cottoned on, reporting that the cyber attack, which was thought to be of Russian or Chinese origin, was hitting combat zone computers and the U.S. Central Command overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan. By now, officials were finally acknowledging that the attack was both widespread and severe.

The culprit is the Worm:W32/Agent.BTZ virus, a particularly nasty form of malware which has prompted Pentagon officials to confiscate all flash drives and DVD’s to contain its spread. Being a worm it replicates itself, thus if its present in a memory card of a portable device it will infect any computer to which you upload data. Of concern now, is that American soldiers often rely on memory sticks to cart essential data between computers.

Defense Department officials acknowledged that the worldwide ban on external drives was a drastic move. Such drives are used constantly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many officers keep flash drives loaded with critical information on lanyards around their necks … Officials would not describe the exact threat from agent.btz, or say whether it can shut down computers or steal information. Some computer experts have reported that agent.btz can allow an attacker to take control of a computer remotely and to take files and other information from it. >>more
Notwithstanding the seriousness of the attack, we should not get carried away with notions of Russian or Chinese cyber operations capabilities which some say are so sophisticated that the U.S. is powerless to counter or detect, hence ...

Since China’s current cyber operations capability is so advanced, it can engage in forms of cyberwarfare so sophisticated that the United States may be unable to counteract or even detect the efforts,” the commission said.

It said Chinese hacker groups may be operating with government support.

"By some estimates, there are 250 hacker groups in China that are tolerated and may even be encouraged by the government to enter and disrupt computer networks,” the commission said.

It quoted Col. Gary McAlum, chief of staff for the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations, as saying China has recognized the importance of cyber operations as a tool of warfare and “has the intent and capability to conduct cyber operations anywhere in the world at any time.”

"China is aggressively pursuing cyberwarfare capabilities that may provide it with an asymmetric advantage against the United States,” the commission said. “In a conflict situation, this advantage would reduce current U.S. conventional military dominance.”
I'm not convinced that Chinese cyber attacks may reduce, "current U.S. conventional military dominance” during periods of conflict. By my reckoning, if this reflects what the Chinese can do, one can only wonder at what the U.S. could achieve if it engaged an enemy, any enemy, with cyber warfare. If the Chinese were smart, they may want to add carrier pigeons to their communications back up plans.

9 comments:

Jennifer said...

Wow! Excellent piece Otto! Where the heck have I been that I wasn't even aware of this threat. It is being downplayed but I don't understand why. In this age of technology we don't need to wait for bombs to destroy us, they can do it with a bug in our system. Having access to our military's every move puts them in great danger. I hope that our government makes this a priority as it should be!

AI said...

Thanks Jennifer!

WomanHonorThyself said...

If the Chinese were smart, they may want to add carrier pigeons to their communications back up plans...indeed Otto!

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Great post Otto. First I think that the coverage concerning this was so lax because the Pentagon put a lid on so as not to promote just how vulnerable they truly are.

Second, the ability for the Chicoms to do this poses two questions in my mind.

1. a questions you touched on, if they have the ability for this type of cyber attack what are their true capabilities and just how advanced are they ?

2. I have to wonder how much of this is directly related to the handing over of technology during the Clinton years which allowed China to advance into the techno world in the first place !

This is most likely just the tip of the Chicom iceberg and at the moment the USA is the Titanic!

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

And in that light, how foolish are WE if we continue to place ALL our future eggs in ONLY the Techno Basket. There is MUCH to be said for analog aircraft, ships, tanks, vehicles.

BZ

AI said...

Lib Lie Conservative Truth: The U.S. as the Titanic and let's hope it stays that way...Thanks for coming by...

BZ: Good point!

Tapline said...

This is scarey. It could be demoralizing, but I doubt that most Americans even noticed. They have their Heads so far up their ....They don't know which end is up....Great Article....stay well....

Tapline said...

This is scarey. It could be demoralizing, but I doubt that most Americans even noticed. They have their Heads so far up their ....They don't know which end is up....Great Article....stay well....

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