Pentagon, NSA Eye Cyber Attacks on Industry

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Epsilon announced April 1 that hackers had snatched customer email information. Citigroup got hit May 10. Hackers hijacked customer data from Sony on April 20. Somebody squirreled into Lockheed Martin’s network on May 21. These are just a few of the dramatically increasing cyber attacks aimed at private companies.

What is the government doing about all of this? Quite a bit, it turns out. The attacks trigger a government “incident response and mitigation effort,” White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt told Battleland.

The Pentagon and the National Security Agency are even involved in analyzing these attacks. On the cyber beat, “They have been around a lot longer than other agencies,” Schmidt said. “So they are part of the team as well to do the analysis and see if this indeed is something more than just a hacktivist probe or a criminal probe.”

 The FBI is also at the table. “In virtually all of these instances, there is some sort of criminal activity that takes place,” Schmidt said. “So clearly, the FBI is in the lead in terms of coordinating a response for those sorts of activities.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team is in charge of warning other potential targets in industry and disseminating threat information. (This seems to be one of the weaker spots in the government’s response to increasing cyber attacks. A Government Accountability Office report last July said that “less than one-third of private sector respondents reported that they were receiving actionable cyber threat information and alerts to a great or moderate extent.”)

And the government is also under attack, big time. Reports of cyber security incidents from federal agencies increased from 5,503 in 2006 to 41,776 in 2010 – a 650 percent increase, according to the GAO. The Pentagon says its networks are probed millions of times every day, and that more than a hundred foreign intelligence agencies have attempted to penetrate DOD networks or those of military contractors.

It’s enough to make you want to unplug, if only you could.