Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., sounded a warning call that the United States is under cyber-attack as Pentagon officials confirmed that they are investigating a "major attack of our computer networks."
"The civilian infrastructure is in danger, and we need to take steps" to halt such intrusions, said Weldon spokesman Pete Peterson. "All those systems that are vulnerable to Y2K are just as vulnerable to terrorists using high-tech computers." Weldon chairs the House Armed Services Research and Development Subcommittee.
The attack has not yet jeopardized sensitive military computer systems, it is believed, but it is much more sustained than the 60 to 100 "low-level" attempts at intrusion that occur every day at the Department of Defense, said a Pentagon spokesperson.
The attack came to the attention of members of Congress in the question and answer session before closed hearings of Weldon's subcommittee last week. In prepared remarks before the closed hearing began, Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre outlined what the department has done to guard against such attacks by hackers, highlighting the "Solar Sunrise" attack of February 1998.
"The attacks were widespread, systematic and showed a pattern that indicated they might be the preparation for a coordinated attack on the Defense Information Infrastructure. The attacks targeted key parts of Defense networks at a time we were preparing for possible military operations against Iraq," Hamre said.
Hamre said that DoD had instituted a 24-hour cyber patrol, installed intrusion detection systems of key systems nodes, and began working with officials at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center.
ABC News reported that Pentagon sources said the attacks had been traced to computers in Russia, though the attacks could be just routed through Russian computers from another location.
- by Drew Clark