Israeli Internet Site Aids `Attacks' on U.S. Hackers Target Government Computers

Article excerpt

International computer hackers are using an Internet site in Israel as a base for ongoing electronic attacks on U.S. government and military computer systems, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

A Pentagon official with access to intelligence reports said the National Security Agency detected the hackers and warned computer security officials throughout the government last week about the electronic attempts to break in to computers.

The NSA's new National Security Incident Response Center, an interagency group that tracks computer attacks, issued the warning. NSA technicians traced the origin of the attacks to an Internet protocol (IP) address in Israel, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. An IP address is a number that identifies a computer connected to the Internet.

The agency said in an alert message that many probes of government and military computers were detected from the Israeli site.

The NSA said the site is a popular "jump point" for hackers in Israeli and from other locations in the world.

Hackers also use the site to store hacker-related materials. Computer hackers often store software and database information at remote locations. The software can include special password-breaking programs that are used to find entry points into Internet sites.

"There are some intrusions going on as we speak," said Melissa Bohen, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon's Joint Task Force-Computer Network Defenses.

The computer intrusions are being carried out against networks that carry unclassified information, she said of the 60 to 80 attempted computer break-ins that the Pentagon detects daily. Secret information is kept on separate networks that are more difficult to penetrate.

The FBI is continuing to investigate the computer intrusions that were first detected earlier this year, she said, declining to elaborate.

The real danger to U.S. national security is the threat posed by foreign intelligence services or governments that could exploit computer vulnerabilities for major electronic warfare against the United States.

"Hackers demonstrate a real vulnerability that can be exploited by someone with real hostile intent," said Frank Cilluffo, a computer-security specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's only a matter of time before that happens."

Most hackers engage in "Internet graffiti" by entering government Internet sites and defacing them, Mr. …