As cyber-security comes into the media spotlight, more information is being released about just how much and how often high security and government agencies are successfully hacked into and their secret information stolen.
Steven Shirley, the Pentagon’s forensics-focused Cyber Crime Center’s executive director has provided the latest data which says that between August 2007 and August 2009 71 government agencies, contractors, universities and think tanks with connections to the U.S. military had been penetrated by foreign hackers, and in some cases multiple times.
In total, the center performed 116 investigations following spying breaches and found that in all but 14 of those cases the intruders had gained complete administrator-level access to the victim’s network and usually left some kind of spying software on the networks.
“There are some significant defense contractors among that number… We can say that any company that’s involved in high-technology research and development is a target for these adversaries” Shirley says.
These attacks are not new at all, as some date back to as early as 2003, where Sandia National Laboratories and its managing company, Lockheed Martin were penetrated by cyber-spies and plans for a class of technology with potential military uses had been stolen by hackers. Then again in 2007, cyber-spies had breached the largest 10 military contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing. Both of these attacks seemed to have originated from China, which is exactly where the most recent attacks seem to have come from as well.
“If you’re Boeing, Lockheed or Raytheon, you simply have a threat that wakes up every day and tries to compromise you” says Kevin Mandia, a former Pentagon researcher whose firm, Mandiant, serves as a post-breach consultancy.
For these high security and government agencies, defending themselves from cyber-attacks is an everyday struggle that they endure as they try to increase their security and keep their top secret information safe from hackers.