Hackers Attack Via Chinese Web Sites
U.S. Agencies' Networks Are Among Targets
By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 25, 2005; Page A01
Web sites in China are being used heavily to target computer networks in the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies, successfully breaching hundreds of unclassified networks, according to several U.S. officials.
Classified systems have not been compromised, the officials added. But U.S. authorities remain concerned because, as one official said, even seemingly innocuous information, when pulled together from various sources, can yield useful intelligence to an adversary.
"The scope of this thing is surprisingly big," said one of four government officials who spoke separately about the incidents, which stretch back as far as two or three years and have been code-named Titan Rain by U.S. investigators. All officials insisted on anonymity, given the sensitivity of the matter.
Whether the attacks constitute a coordinated Chinese government campaign to penetrate U.S. networks and spy on government databanks has divided U.S. analysts. Some in the Pentagon are said to be convinced of official Chinese involvement; others see the electronic probing as the work of other hackers simply using Chinese networks to disguise the origins of the attacks.
"It's not just the Defense Department but a wide variety of networks that have been hit," including the departments of State, Energy and Homeland Security as well as defense contractors, the official said. "This is an ongoing, organized attempt to siphon off information from our unclassified systems."
Another official, however, cautioned against exaggerating the severity of the intrusions. He said the attacks, while constituting "a large volume," were "not the biggest thing going on out there."
Apart from acknowledging the existence of Titan Rain and providing a sketchy account of its scope, the officials who were interviewed declined to offer further details, citing legal and political considerations and a desire to avoid giving any advantage to the hackers. One official said the FBI has opened an investigation into the incidents.