From: ()
Subject: Hacker could cripple military
Date: 20 Apr 1998 17:45:32 GMT

    Computer hackers could disable military; System compromised in secret

    Senior Pentagon leaders were stunned by a military exercise showing
    how easy it is for hackers to cripple U.S. military and civilian
    computer networks, according to new details of the secret exercise. 

    Using software obtained easily from hacker sites on the Internet, a
    group of National Security Agency officials could have shut down the
    U.S. electric-power grid within days and rendered impotent the
    command-and-control elements of the U.S. Pacific Command, said
    officials familiar with the war game, known as Eligible Receiver. 

    "The attack was actually run in a two-week period and the results were
    frightening," said a defense official involved in the game. "This
    attack, run by a set of people using standard Internet techniques,
    would have basically shut down the command-and-control capability in
    the Pacific theater for some considerable period of time." 

    Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said, "Eligible Receiver was an
    important and revealing exercise that taught us that we must be better
    organized to deal with potential attacks against our computer systems
    and information infrastructure." 

    The secret exercise began last June after months of preparation by the
    NSA computer specialists who, without warning, targeted computers used
    by U.S. military forces in the Pacific and in the United States. 

    The game was simple: Conduct information warfare attacks, or
    "infowar," on the Pacific Command and ultimately force the United
    States to soften its policies toward the crumbling communist regime in
    Pyongyang. The "hackers" posed as paid surrogates for North Korea. 

    The NSA "Red Team" of make-believe hackers showed how easy it is for
    foreign nations to wreak electronic havoc using computers, modems and
    software technology widely available on the darker regions of the
    Internet: network-scanning software, intrusion tools and
    password-breaking "log-in scripts." 

    According to U.S. officials who took part in the exercise, within days
    the team of 50 to 75 NSA officials had inflicted crippling damage. 

    They broke into computer networks and gained access to the systems
    that control the electrical power grid for the entire country. If they
    had wanted to, the hackers could have disabled the grid, leaving the
    United States in the dark. 

    Groups of NSA hackers based in Hawaii and other parts of the United
    States floated effortlessly through global cyberspace, breaking into
    unclassified military computer networks in Hawaii, the headquarters of
    the U.S. Pacific Command, as well as in Washington, Chicago, St. Louis
    and parts of Colorado. 

    "The attacks were not actually run against the infrastructure
    components because we don't want to do things like shut down the power
    grid," said a defense official involved in the exercise. "But the
    referees were shown the attacks and shown the structure of the
    power-grid control, and they agreed, yeah, this attack would have shut
    down the power grid." 

    Knocking out the electrical power throughout the United States was
    just a sideline for the NSA cyberwarriors. Their main target was the
    U.S. Pacific Command, which is in charge of the 100,000 troops that
    would be called on to deal with wars in Korea or China. 

    "The most telling thing for the Department of Defense, when all was
    said and done, is that basically for a two-week period the
    command-and-control capability in the Pacific theater would have been
    denied by the 'infowar' attacks, and that was the period of the
    exercise," the official said. 

    The attackers also foiled virtually all efforts to trace them. FBI
    agents joined the Pentagon in trying to find the hackers, but for the
    most part they failed. Only one of the several NSA groups, a unit
    based in the United States, was uncovered. The rest operated without
    being located or identified. 

    The attackers breached the Pentagon's unclassified global computer
    network using Internet service providers and dial-in connections that
    allowed them to hop around the world. 

    "It's a very, very difficult security environment when you go through
    different hosts and different countries and then pop up on the
    doorstep of Keesler Air Force Base [in Mississippi], and then go from
    there into Cincpac," the official said, using the acronym for the
    Commander in Chief, Pacific. 

    The targets of the network attacks also made it easy. "They just were
    not security-aware," said the official. 

    A second official found that many military computers used the word
    "password" for their confidential access word.