Chi­nese hack­ers close War Col­lege site

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Bill Gertz

Chi­nese com­puter hack­ers pen­e­trated the Naval War Col­lege net­work last month, forc­ing se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties to shut down all e-mail and of­fi­cial com­puter net­work work at the Navy’s school for se­nior of­fi­cers.

Navy of­fi­cials said the com­puter at­tack was de­tected Nov. 15 and two days later the U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand raised the se­cu­rity alert level for the Pen­tagon’s 12,000 com­puter net­works and 5 mil­lion com­put­ers.

A spokesman for the Navy Cy­ber De­fense Op­er­a­tions Com­mand, lo­cated in Nor­folk, said “net­work in­tru­sions” were de­tected at the New­port, R.I., mil­i­tary school three weeks ago.

“The sys­tem-net­work con­nec­tion was ter­mi­nated and known af­fected sys­tems were re­moved and are be­ing ex­am­ined for foren­sic ev­i­dence to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the in­tru­sion,” said Lt. Cmdr. Doug Ga­bos, the spokesman.

“The Naval War Col­lege com­puter sys­tem-net­work is used by stu­dents at the war col­lege and con­tains Navy Pro­fes­sional Read­ing Pro­gram and other ma­te­ri­als, all of which are un­clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.”

The FBI and Naval Crim­i­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Ser­vice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the breach, an­other of­fi­cial said.

The Naval War Col­lege trains se­nior of­fi­cers, con­ducts war games and car­ries out some clas­si­fied re­search such as stud­ies of fu­ture war­fare. The col­lege’s Web site was not ac­ces­si­ble on Nov. 29.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chief of naval op­er­a­tions, re­cently di­rected the war col­lege’s Strate­gic Stud­ies Group to be­gin work to de­velop con­cepts for wag­ing cy­ber­war­fare, a Navy spokesman said.

“The Naval War Col­lege is where the Navy’s Strate­gic Stud- ies Group is plan­ning and prac­tic­ing cy­ber-war tech­niques, and now they don’t even have e-mail ac­cess,” one U.S. of­fi­cial said.

U.S. de­fense of­fi­cials said intelligence re­ports in­di­cated that the cy­ber-at­tack on the col­lege came from China, which a re­cent con­gres­sional re­port said has be­gun a se­ries of com­puter net­work at­tacks against de­fense and mil­i­tary sys­tems in the United States code-named “Ti­tan Rain.”

Re­tired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Goetze, a Naval War Col­lege pro­fes­sor, told a class in Wash­ing­ton on Nov. 27 that Chi­nese com­puter hack­ers were be­hind the net­work at­tack. Gen. Goetze told stu­dents that com- mu­ni­ca­tions were hob­bled be­cause the Chi­nese “took down” the en­tire Naval War Col­lege com­puter net­work.

Stu­dents and pro­fes­sors at the col­lege now have to use private email from home, rais­ing se­cu­rity ques­tions.

Cmdr. Ga­bos de­clined to com­ment on the ori­gin of the at­tack. “The na­ture and ex­tent of in­tru­sion are op­er­a­tional is­sues,” he said. “I can tell you it was an iso­lated in­ci­dent and did not af­fect other el­e­ments of De­part­ment of De­fense.”

How­ever, the U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, which is in charge of De­fense De­part­ment com­puter war­fare and de­fenses, is­sued a di- rec­tive about the time the at­tack was de­tected or­der­ing all de­fense com­puter users to heighten se­cu­rity by chang­ing pass­words.

The Strate­gic Com­mand di­rec­tive stated that the “in­for­ma­tion con­di­tion” was to be raised Nov. 17 from In­fo­con 5 to In­fo­con 4, or height­ened alert against at­tack.

Alan Paller, a com­puter se­cu­rity spe­cial­ist with the private SANS In­sti­tute, said the Chi­nese net­work at­tack against the war col­lege is “the tip of the ice­berg.”

“The depth of the pen­e­tra­tion is more than any­body is even ad­mit­ting,” he said in an in­ter­view. “Peo­ple are try­ing to hide this be­cause they’re em­bar­rassed.”

Mr. Paller said the Chi­nese mil­i­tary’s doc­trine calls for wag­ing cy­ber-war­fare against com­puter net­works. “Part of it is gath­er­ing data and part is leav­ing a back door so they can get in [to mil­i­tary com­put­ers] in the fu­ture,” he said.

The an­nual re­port by the U.S.China Eco­nomic and Se­cu­rity Re­view Com­mis­sion, re­leased Nov. 16, stated that there are “clear ex­am­ples of com­puter net­work pen­e­tra­tions com­ing from China,” in­clud­ing those linked to Ti­tan Rain.

The re­port said the Chi­nese mil­i­tary has “in­for­ma­tion war­fare units [that] are de­vel­op­ing viruses to harm the com­puter sys­tems of its en­e­mies.”

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