Chinese military possibly pulls off the most successful hack yet against U.S. defense

According to American officials, the Chinese military launched in June the most successful attack on the U.S. defense department. Representatives at the Pentagon confirmed that it had to shut down part of its computer system in response to an attack, though declined to comment on who it believed to be behind the attack. Sources say that the attack came from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in China.

“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 to the Financial Times. The official also said that the PLA was able to penetratedefence and think-tanknetworks.

Both the Chinese military and the U.S. defense bodies are believed to take part in active probing of one another. Hackers from China supposedly spent weeks testing the Pentagon before launching the attack. In response to the intrusion, the Pentagon took offline vulnerable parts of its network.

Although the Pentagon will not discuss in detail the effects of the attack, sources familiar with the matter said that the information accessed by the hackers were “unclassified,” and thus, likely not to contain sensitive government data.

The Pentagon said that the attack on its system has urged greater attention to the matter of security. “These are multiple wake-up calls stirring us to levels of more aggressive vigilance,” said Pentagon top Asia official Richard Lawless.

The compromise of the U.S. defense system has forced officials to reconsider the type of information that is transmitted via email or with BlackBerry mobiles.

The phenomenon of cyberwar is not one that is new to the U.S. government. A number of government websites have been the target of attacks by both foreign governments and independent hackers. The U.S. and China, in particular, are no stranger to spying on one another. In April 2001, a US spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet, sparking the first major cyberwar between the two countries.

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