By Dana Yarkechy
Wall Street Journal reported an Iranian cyber attack against the unclassified network of the U.S. Navy. According to the report various sources – including Congress representatives – expressed their concerns about the Iranian infiltration, saying its severity may have been underestimated.
The Journal reported the attack back in September. American experts believed at the time that the attack was blocked and the problem was solved. Now, however, they admit that attackers managed to infiltrate U.S. Navy and Marine Corps systems and remain active until November. A former senior navy official told the newspaper that the attack deeply affected the Navy and Marine Corps, exposing their systems’ vulnerability.
Fox News reported on February 18, 2014 that attempts to resolve the issue and repel hackers from the network lasted four months. The man who led these efforts will now have to face the same Senators who are considering his appointment as Director of the NSA. Last January President Obama announced the candidacy of Admiral Mike Rogers, who is set to replace General Keith Alexander as the Director of the NSA and the U.S. Cyber Command.
According to the report American Congressmen expressed their concerns about the lengthy period of time between the discovery of the infiltration and the final restoration of the systems. Mike Rogers will have to answer for that, in addition to going into detail about long range plans to improve cyber security.
Hackers targeted the non-classified navy network hosting websites and non-sensitive information, audio communications, video and other data. The network is used by 800,000 users from about 2,500 different locations. A senior source explained that there are many ongoing efforts to fix the network vulnerabilities abused by the hackers, all throughout Department of Defense systems – not just the Navy’s. Neither Rogers nor Iranian officials commented on the issue, although Iranians did claim to have been the victims of cyber attacks initiated by western states – including the Stuxnet virus incident in 2010.
This infiltration is part of a series of cyber attacks which caught U.S. military intelligence by surprise. In early 2012 top intelligence officials believed that Iran wanted to conduct a cyber warfare operation, with only its limited capabilities stopping it from doing so. A short time later Iranian hackers launched a series of attacks against banking websites, shutting down some of them. The same hackers also launched a virus that damaged a Saudi oil company and shut down about 30,000 computers. According to a senior Department of Defense official the attack resulted in damages estimated at 10 million dollars, although others believe that the real cost is much higher. Official sources added that the attack and other cyber threats led to an extensive review of the Navy’s security systems – resulting in a planned upgrade that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.