Hackers target Pentagon computers

US Pentagon military computer systems are being targeted in an organised ongoing attack by unknown hackers attempting to access classified data, according to reports published Friday.

Classified networks have not been breached, but defense officials view the matter as "a major concern," US Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre was quoted. Hamre oversees computer security for the Pentagon, which is the home of the US Department of Defense.

Hamre met with US lawmakers in a closed hearing about the incidents of cyber terrorism that included attacks on two consecutive days in January on classified US Air Force computers at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, according to CNN and MSNBC. That base operates the country's most sensitive Air Force intelligence, including data relied on by troops involved in actions in Bosnia and Iraq.

The hacking incidents at the base resulted from a "sophisticated, coordinated assault through computer networks in Canada, Norway and Thailand," NBC News said.

Hackers in up to 15 places globally have taken part in the coordinated effort, attacking Pentagon computers up to 100 times daily in the last several months, NBC said. Computers operated by the Air Intelligence Agency, a Joint Chiefs of Staff operation and the Air Intelligence Agency also were attacked.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the attacks, several of which were traced to Russian sites, but officials said that it appears that the cyber-terrorists routed their attacks through Russian networks, the published reports said. Hamre said in the hearing that defense officials are worried that the attacks might have occurred with help from an insider who has access to government computers.

The possibility of such attacks by cyber-terrorists has been an increasing concern and President Bill Clinton has proposed that $US1.4 billion be included in the next federal fiscal year budget to deal with just that matter.

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