A Hacker's Final Exam: Federal Systems

In the hacker community, "you get your gold certificate by [hacking] the Department of Defense or another federal agency," said Philip Loranger, chief of the Command and Control Protect Division in the Army's Information Assurance Office. Hackers on Tuesday threatened to take down the Army's home page on the World Wide Web today.

Loranger said hacker groups consider a successful hack against a U.S. government system a right of passage. Hacker groups also are crawling out from the underground and establishing commercial Web sites where other hackers can download hacking tools, he said.

One such group - Lopht Heavy Industries - offers via its Web site what Loranger called one of the most effective network surveillance tools available. "They used to [hack] us, and now they're going to sell to us," said Loranger. "And guess what? We're buying."

Loranger noted that in India, graduate programs in computer science are known to require students to conduct a successful hack against a system in the United States before they can get their degree. However, many of the tools available on the Internet are so easy to use that any computer novice can become a dangerous hacker, he said.

During the Army Directors of Information Management Conference here, Loranger demonstrated how fast these "point-and-click" tools can help hackers map out networks, uncover security gaps such as "guest" log-on accounts and password files, gain root access to major network servers, and locate computers belonging to high-level officials. The same types of tools exist for creating viruses, he said.

"If you've ever been [listed] in the White Pages [in the phone book], you're going to show up," said Loranger, demonstrating how Network Solutions Inc.'s popular Whois service can provide hackers with anybody's full name, e-mail address, phone and fax number, and the server address that supports those accounts.

Using a notebook computer with a 2,400 megabits/sec Internet connection, Loranger displayed a network map of all the systems associated with an Army official at the Pentagon. From there, he gained access to the system using a program called "John the Ripper," which cracked all but one of the passwords in the Caldera Inc. Open Linux-based system.

"This is like taking candy from a baby," said Loranger. "This is about a two-minute hack. And I haven't used a single hacker tool yet."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Verton

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?