Chinese military hacked into Pentagon


Richard Moore

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Chinese military hacked into Pentagon
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington and Richard McGregor in Beijing

Published: September 3 2007 19:00 | Last updated: September 3 2007 20:53

The Chinese military hacked into a Pentagon computer network in June in the most
successful cyber attack on the US defence department, say American ‹officials.

The Pentagon acknowledged shutting down part of a computer system serving the 
office of Robert Gates, defence secretary, but declined to say who it believed 
was behind the attack.

Current and former officials have told the Financial Times an internal 
investigation has revealed that the incursion came from the People¹s Liberation 

One senior US official said the Pentagon had pinpointed the exact origins of the
attack. Another person familiar with the event said there was a ³very high level
of confidence...trending towards total certainty² that the PLA was responsible. 
The defence ministry in Beijing declined to comment on Monday.

Angela Merkel, Germany¹s chancellor, raised reports of Chinese infiltration of 
German government computers with Wen Jiabao, China¹s premier, in a visit to 
Beijing, after which the Chinese foreign ministry said the government opposed 
and forbade ³any criminal acts undermining computer systems, including hacking².

³We have explicit laws and regulations in this regard,² said Jiang Yu, from the 
ministry. ³Hacking is a global issue and China is frequently a victim.²

George W.‹Bush, US president, is due to meet Hu Jintao, China¹s president, on 
Thursday in Australia prior to the Apec summit.

The PLA regularly probes US military networks ­ and the Pentagon is widely 
assumed to scan Chinese networks ­ but US officials said the penetration in June
raised concerns to a new level because of fears that China had shown it could 
disrupt  systems at critical times.

³The PLA has demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks that disable our 
system...and the ability in a conflict situation to re-enter and disrupt on a 
very large scale,² said a former official, who said the PLA had 
penetrated‹the‹networks‹of US defence companies and think-tanks.

Hackers from numerous locations in China spent several months probing the 
Pentagon system before overcoming its defences, according to people familiar 
with the matter.

The Pentagon took down the network for more than a week while the attacks 
continued, and is to conduct a comprehensive diagnosis. ³These are multiple 
wake-up calls stirring us to levels of more aggressive vigilance,² said Richard 
Lawless, the Pentagon¹s top Asia official at the time of the attacks.

The Pentagon is still investigating how much data was downloaded, but one person
with knowledge of the attack said most of the information was probably 
³unclassified². He said the event had forced officials to reconsider the kind of
information they send over unsecured e-mail systems.

John Hamre, a Clinton-era deputy defence secretary involved with cyber security,
said that while he had no knowledge of the June attack, criminal groups 
sometimes masked cyber attacks to make it appear they came from government 
computers in a particular country.

The National Security Council said the White House had created a team of experts
to consider whether the administration needed to restrict the use of 
BlackBerries because of concerns about cyber espionage.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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