U.S. Military Labs Hacked

Dennis Faas's picture

It seems not even the tough, intimidating reputation of the U.S. military is enough to scare away hackers. According to recent reports, two major American military science labs have been infiltrated by what may have been a rival government.

The break-in was announced this past weekend by the ORNL, or Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Also hacked was the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Nex Mexico. A spokesperson for Oak Ridge described the hack as a "sophisticated cyber attack," one that led to the unauthorized use of a database containing private details for visitors between 1990 and 2004.

Some of these vital details included social security numbers and birth dates.

Oak Ridge is considered one of the premier American military science labs. Every year, some 3,000 researchers visit the facilities.

How did the hackers get in?

According to experts investigating the crime, the intruders used a few critical waves of phishing emails in order to attack with malicious software. When Trojan-laced attachments were opened (an exact date of infiltration is unknown), the malware bypassed critical security systems. The attacks began on October 29. (Source: arstechnica.com)

Oak Ridge's director, Thom Mason, believes the damage was the work of professional hackers who knew exactly what they were doing. He described the crime as a "coordinated attempt to gain access to computer networks at numerous laboratories and other institutions across the country." (Source: pcworld.com)

Although Oak Ridge officials seem surprised at the break-in, Los Alamos is not new to these attacks. "This appears to be a new low, even drug dealers can get classified information out of Los Alamos," said one security expert. Several years ago, Los Alamos leaked critical information through lost hard disks.

Both the Oak Ridge and Los Alamos attacks are believed to be linked.

Given the targets, the U.S. military is exploring the possibility that the intruders were working for a foreign government. Scary as it may sound, the data theft itself could have been nothing more than a smokescreen as underground networks infiltrated some of the American government's most secretive databases.

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