Cyberattacks Against Government Networks Rise Dramatically in 2008

By Matthew Harwood

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has revealed to USA Today that cyberattacks against government computer networks increased by more than 40 percent in 2008.

Federally tracked accounts of unauthorized access to government computers and installations of hostile programs rose from a combined 3,928 incidents in 2007 to 5,488 in 2008, based on data provided to USA TODAY by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT).

"Government systems are under constant attack," says Joel Brenner, counterintelligence chief in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "We're seeing … a dramatic, consistent increase in cyber crime (and) intelligence activities."

The government does not publicly detail the number or types of attacks that succeed.

Last Thursday, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told lawmakers that cyber-based threats against U.S. information infrastructure were an emerging area of concern. Both China and Russia have the ability, he said, to carry out large-scale cyberattacks or data breaches. The U.S. government also has to worry about non-state actors, such as cybercriminals, although Blair said he did not think terrorist organizations would choose cyberattacks over other attack methods.

To underline the government's grave concern over cybersecurity, President Barack Obama last week appointed Melissa Hathaway, a top cyber security adviser to former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, to conduct a 60-day review of government cybersecurity policies.


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