Pentagon hit by severe cyber attack

by Michael Smith

The Pentagon has suffered a cyber attack of alarming levels that, so it would appear, has caused considerable damage.

The attack came in the form of a global virus or worm that is spreading rapidly throughout a number of military networks.

As a result of the cyber attack, the Defense Department has banned the use of external hardware devices throughout a vast network of military computers, such as flash drives and DVD's.

What banning the use of such devices shall archive beats me as, unless the attack was introduced by someone using such devices, banning them will make absolutely no difference whatsoever.

Pentagon officials states that they had detected a global virus, for which there has been alerts, and that have seen some of this on their networks and that they are now taking steps to mitigate the virus.

The official could not reveal the source of the attack because that information remains classified.

"Daily there are millions of scans of the GIG, the Global Information Grid, but for security reasons we don't discuss the number of actual intrusions or attempts, or discuss specific measures commanders in the field may be taking to protect and defend our networks," the department said in an official statement.

Military computers are often referred to as part of the Global Information Grid, or GIG, a system composed of 17 million computers, many of which house classified or sensitive information.

Not discussing the number of actual intrusions or attempts or specific measures commanders in the field may be taking to protect and defend the networks is, obviously, a wise step as otherwise one would be giving away the countermeasures to the enemy, of whichever kind, and that would be rather counter-productive. However, unless the virus was introduced into the grid via an external hard drive such as a USB flash device or such like then banning them will not make one iota of a difference.

A memo sent out to an Army division within the Pentagon warning of the cyber attack.

"Due to the presence of commercial malware, CDR USSTRATCOM has banned the use of removable media (thumb drives, CDRs/DVDRs, floppy disks) on all DoD networks and computers effective immediately."

Again, as I said, this is either due to the fact that the introduction of the virus came via such a device, which means the enemy has access to the network directly via workstations or this is the wrong move. We shall, I guess, never find out, as they won't tell.

What this tells us, however, is that there is no such thing as a 100% secure system and that one must never ever let ones defences lapse. Keep all your anti-virus and anti-malware software updated, ideally on a more than once daily basis, if at all possible, and also have at least a software firewall, if not even a hardware and a software one working in conjunction.

You are only as safe on the Internet, in whichever way, as the latest update of your malware protection.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008