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Defense Department Responds to Cyber Threats, Official Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2007 – The Defense Department receives many attempted cyber attacks each day and has measures in place to aggressively respond to and deter these attacks, a department spokesman said today.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman addressed media reports that a computer system in the Office of the Secretary of Defense was hacked into by the Chinese military earlier this year. Whitman confirmed that an attack did occur in June but declined to identify the origin of the threat. It is often difficult to pinpoint the true origin of an intrusion into computer systems and even more difficult to tie the intrusion to a specific nation or government, he noted.

“Cyber or non-kinetic type threats to military computer networks are viewed as just as real and just as significant as physical or kinetic threats,” Whitman said. “The department aggressively responds to deter all intrusions to defend what is known as the GIG, the global information grid.”

When the intrusion occurred in June, elements of an unclassified e-mail system in the Office of the Secretary of Defense were taken off-line briefly, Whitman said. However, the department has redundant systems in place, so ongoing operations were not disrupted, he said. The system was restored to full service within two or three weeks.

There are hundreds of attempted intrusions into the Defense Department computer network each day, the majority of which are detected and stopped, Whitman said. The nature of the threat is large and diverse and includes recreational hackers, self-styled cyber vigilantes, various groups with nationalistic or ideological agendas, transnational actors, and nation states. When appropriate, the department turns cases over to law enforcement officials for investigation, he said.

“We continue to aggressively monitor our networks for intrusions,” Whitman said. “We have appropriate procedures to address events of this nature.”

Since the incident in June, Whitman said, he knows of no successful intrusions into the Defense Department computer system.

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