Chinese hackers hit State Department

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that hackers from China and other areas of Southeast Asia broke into the department’s computer network in June and stole files, resulting in the department shutting off Internet connectivity for several days.

U.S. officials familiar with the incident told the Associated Press that investigators believe the hackers compromised passwords, stole unclassified information and planted backdoors in systems to allow them to return easily.

But the department says it has since secured its systems.

“The department did detect anomalies in network traffic, and we feel it prudent to take measures to ensure our system’s integrity,” said deputy spokesman Tom Casey. “I can confirm this is not a virus. The department is continuing an investigation into the incident.” — Washington Post

The State Department shut down Internet access entirely for its Washington headquarters and several foreign offices, and also disabled Secure Sockets Layer, the technology used to make connections to secure web sites, for several days.

SSL version 2 has numerous weaknesses which make it susceptible to attack, though SSL version 3, available since 1996 and one of two currently accepted standards for encrypting Web traffic, is more secure. All web browsers support both version 2 and version 3, as well as Transport Layer Security, another standard for encrypting both Web and other traffic on the Internet.

State Department employees have been instructed to change their passwords.

A National Security Agency program to protect sensitive and classified information on Defense Department and other government computers has been delayed until 2012 or later, according to defense officials, leaving the Pentagon open to more than 160,000 hacker attacks a year.

And that’s why I say government computer security sucks.

One thought on “Chinese hackers hit State Department

  • July 13, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    As hackers get better and bolder, government computer security gets slacker.

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