Pentagon Fortifying Computer Networks to Stymie Hackers

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 17, 1998 | Go to article overview

Pentagon Fortifying Computer Networks to Stymie Hackers


Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Pentagon is taking steps to improve the security of its computer networks following a military exercise that could have disrupted command and control in the Pacific and might have shut down the U.S. electrical power grid, a spokesman said yesterday.

"Eligible Receiver is a game that was played by the joint staff last June, and it tested our ability to deal with cyber attacks," Kenneth Bacon, the spokesman, said. "It found that we have a lot of work to do to provide better security."

As a result of the exercise and of a real computer attack earlier this year, Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre is leading an effort within the Pentagon - which has 2.1 million computer users worldwide - to tighten security.

The Pentagon is seeking to increase awareness of the growing threats to computer systems by holding information warfare exercises.

"And Eligible Receiver, I think, has succeeded beyond its planners' wildest dreams in elevating the awareness of threats to our computer systems," he said, commenting on a report about the exercise in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times.

The Times, quoting defense officials, disclosed new details of the exercise held from June 9 to June 13, when a group of about 75 National Security Agency computer specialists launched attacks against Pentagon computers.

In the exercise scenario, the NSA officials posed as foreign surrogates for the North Korean government. They targeted the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. infrastructures in an effort to try to force the U.S. government to soften its policies toward Pyongyang.

Within days, the NSA hackers accessed the military's command and control structure in the Pacific and could have shut it down. They also could have turned off the entire electrical power grid in the United States, said officials involved in the game.

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