Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

  The gang that can't shoot straight

True, George Bush has put America's military in an almost untenable position in Iraq and then undercut the armed forces at every stage through his political ineptitude. Still, the military's top brass has also displayed a wondrous capacity to bungle its response to a low-tech guerilla insurgency. They really don't care much for guerilla war, that could hardly be clearer. Instead, the Pentagon prides itself on what critics view as its almost monomaniacal pursuit of high-tech war "systems".

It turns out though that the Pentagon isn't entirely competent with high-tech stuff, either. Today we learn from the Financial Times that in June a Pentagon computer system was badly breached by Chinese military hackers, who managed to shut it down for over a week.

The Chinese military hacked into a Pentagon computer network in June in the most successful cyber attack on the US defence department, say American officials.

The Pentagon acknowledged shutting down part of a computer system serving the office of Robert Gates, defence secretary, but declined to say who it believed was behind the attack.

Current and former officials have told the Financial Times an internal investigation has revealed that the incursion came from the People’s Liberation Army...

The PLA regularly probes US military networks – and the Pentagon is widely assumed to scan Chinese networks – but US officials said the penetration in June raised concerns to a new level because of fears that China had shown it could disrupt systems at critical times.

“The PLA has demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks that disable our system...and the ability in a conflict situation to re-enter and disrupt on a very large scale,” said a former official, who said the PLA had penetrated the networks of US defence companies and think-tanks.

The Pentagon confirmed today that its system had been hacked and downplayed the threat. It also refused to identify the culprits. The Chinese officially have denied any involvement.

Once again, the Pentagon knew perfectly well what kind of threat it was facing.

The Pentagon warned earlier this year that China's army is emphasizing hacking as an offensive weapon. It cited Chinese military exercises in 2005 that included hacking "primarily in first strikes against enemy networks."

Indeed, in the last few weeks alone the US State Department and several German government systems have been breached by Chinese hackers. Only a few days ago, the International Herald Tribune reported the Chinese are waging an almost limitless cyber war around the globe.

U.S. and other foreign military analysts say that Chinese defense planners have identified the heavy dependence on computers of most modern military forces as a potential weakness that could be exploited in a conflict.

They cite articles and reports in Chinese military journals and magazines that suggest attacks aimed at extracting intelligence from enemy computer networks or disrupting communication and signals processing could deliver a decisive military advantage...

"Chinese capabilities in this area have evolved from defending PRC networks from attack to offensive operations against adversary networks," Richard Lawless, deputy under secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee in June.

As part of its response to the threat of computer attack, the Pentagon last year created a new cyberspace command to coordinate offensive and defensive operations.

Furthermore, a June report to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also warned of the capabilities of Chinese hackers. It cited the testimony of the head of the US Strategic Command, Gen. James Cartwright, expressing concern that China regularly hacks into official and private cyber networks to collect important intelligence.

More and more the upper ranks of the US military prefer to plan for, and spend for, and dream about high tech warfare. Too bad, just as with their latest unpleasant encounter with guerilla warfare, there are such inexpensive, low-tech ways to tie the Pentagon into knots.

crossposted from Unbossed

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