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The Cyberwarriors

Who they are, what they do, and how to become one.

Hackers Stole IDs for Attacks

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A5, AUGUST 17, 2009


WASHINGTON -- Russian hackers hijacked American identities and U.S. software tools and used them in an attack on Georgian government Web sites during the war between Russia and Georgia last year, according to new research to be released Monday by a nonprofit U.S. group.

In addition to refashioning common Microsoft Corp. software into a cyber-weapon, hackers collaborated on popular U.S.-based social-networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook Inc., to coordinate attacks on Georgian sites, the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit found. While the cyberattacks on Georgia were examined shortly after the events last year, these U.S. connections weren't previously known.


The five-day Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008 left hundreds of people dead, crushed Georgia's army, and left two parts of its territory on the border with Russia -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- under Russian occupation.

The cyberattacks in August 2008 significantly disrupted Georgia's communications capabilities, disabling 20 Web sites for more than a week. Among the sites taken down last year were those of the Georgian president and defense minister, as well as the National Bank of Georgia and major news outlets.

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Halted ’03 Iraq Plan Illustrates U.S. Fear of Cyberwar Risk

Published: August 1, 2009, The New York Times

It would have been the most far-reaching case of computer sabotage in history. In 2003, the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies made plans for a cyberattack to freeze billions of dollars in the bank accounts of Saddam Hussein and cripple his government’s financial system before the United States invaded Iraq. He would have no money for war supplies. No money to pay troops.

“We knew we could pull it off — we had the tools,” said one senior official who worked at the Pentagon when the highly classified plan was developed.

But the attack never got the green light. Bush administration officials worried that the effects would not be limited to Iraq but would instead create worldwide financial havoc, spreading across the Middle East to Europe and perhaps to the United States.

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Contractors Vie for Plum Work, Hacking for the United States

Published in the New York Times, May 30, 2009

MELBOURNE, Fla. — The government’s urgent push into cyberwarfare has set off a rush among the biggest military companies for billions of dollars in new defense contracts.

Gregg Matthews for The New York Times

Terry Gillette, left, and Scott Chase run a Raytheon unit that finds flaws in Pentagon computers.


The exotic nature of the work, coupled with the deep recession, is enabling the companies to attract top young talent that once would have gone to Silicon Valley. And the race to develop weapons that defend against, or initiate, computer attacks has given rise to thousands of “hacker soldiers” within the Pentagon who can blend the new capabilities into the nation’s war planning.

Nearly all of the largest military companies — including Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon — have major cyber contracts with the military and intelligence agencies.

The companies have been moving quickly to lock up the relatively small number of experts with the training and creativity to block the attacks and design countermeasures. They have been buying smaller firms, financing academic research and running advertisements for “cyberninjas” at a time when other industries are shedding workers.

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From the Wall Street Journal, MAY 30, 2009

Obama Moves to Curb Data-System Attacks


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Friday the nation's digital infrastructure is under near constant attack and confirmed he will create a White House office for cybersecurity, but offered few details of his strategy to counter threats to U.S. data systems.

Mr. Obama convened government officials and corporate executives at the White House for a formal announcement of his decision to name a cybersecurity czar, who will effectively serve two masters. The official will be on the staff of both the National Security Council and the National Economic Council.

The threat from hackers to critical data systems is among the "most serious economic and national-security challenges" facing the U.S. today, Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama revealed the computers used by his own general-election campaign were penetrated between last August and October, with hackers accessing "emails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans."

Mr. Obama said he will personally pick the new cyber chief, in recognition "of the critical importance" of the job. But he didn't say who would get the post.

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