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Pentagon Computers Attacked With Flash Drive

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posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 01:20 AM

Pentagon Computers Attacked With Flash Drive

A foreign spy agency pulled off the most serious breach of Pentagon computer networks ever by inserting a flash drive into a U.S. military laptop, a top defense official said Wednesday...

..."It was a network administrator's worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary," Lynn wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs. "This ... was the most significant breach of U.S. military computers ever..."
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 01:20 AM
Interesting piece of news. I'm not much of a techie but perhaps those here can shed some light on this. Using a flash drive to hack into a supposedly secret government computer system strikes me as ridiculously low-tech, but hey, what do I know?

The incident in question is reported as having happened in 2008, but seemingly this is the first public disclosure of the breach by the Pentagon. The article goes on to claim that attempted cyber attacks against the US government happen frequently in many different ways.
(visit the link for the full news article)

[edit on 8/26/10 by silent thunder]

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 01:55 AM
Actually it's VERY VERY easy. I should know, I'm a big fan of the IPTV show Hak5 and they did a special feature on devices that would function in the same way. Basically, they have new U3 Flash-drives now that split the flash-drive into two different parts. One acts as a "mini hard-drive" like a flash drive always has, while the other part functions more like a "cd-rom" including the ability to autorun, as well as protecting whatever programs/data is on the cd-rom part from being deleted/cleaned/erased by whatever resident Antivirus program is running.

If you're looking for more information check out this link.
Hak 5 USB Switchblade

It's literally popping in a flash drive, waiting 20 seconds for the LED on it to stop blinking (aka telling you it's done loading) and boom, you just grabbed their passwords, wifi (WEP/WPA) keys, as well as installing backdoors for access later.

Doesn't surprise me one bit that a foreign spy agency would go this route to hack a pentagon computer. Like I said, you only need maybe, 20-30 seconds of physical access.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 01:58 AM
Surely that's premise to invading a country and declaring war now?

They can use that as an excuse to go into China now !

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 02:33 AM
Sure it's easy...

1: They run as administrator account with no password or with easy-to-guess passwords

2: No LUA, HIPS or BB protection
3: No virtualized environment like sandbox
4: No system monitoring tools for changes....

It's kind of funny when you hear of Milnet, arpanet, third echelon, super ultra-giga-mega computers when they get h4x0rd.....

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 02:52 AM
Gary McKinnon did it with a relatively basic programming language (Perl) and a home PC & modem, no different to what's in billions of people's homes. So, it looks as if they didn't learn anything from Gary but continue to hound him nevertheless. Leave him alone, the US should be looking to lock some of it's so called IT & security personel in the supermax for 60 years.

It's just a matter of time before unsecured US defense data falls into the wrong hands, and eventualy plays a part in the downfall of civilisation.

Imagine if a rogue/high risk state such as N Korea or Iran managed to obtain US defense data? We put so much on computers, any chances of defending our countries would be seriously hampered, and that would just be the start.

This should show you how the US government feels about the safety of American citizens, and that's coming from an Englishwoman!

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 03:00 AM
If... I was into corporate theft you know how I'd hack into a company’s system?

I'd dress up in some bright shorts and shirt with a local IT businesses logo plastered on it. You know, real young typical sweet looking handout person. Fake promo's everywhere..

Then id position myself and my stage in the carpark/steps/lobby of some company, and hand out free 1gb flashdrives with some catch token as if it was a freebee give away by a company looking to get its self known..

Id only need to do it for 5-6 minutes? and i reckon id have.. 50 people take a flash drive, as they are walking into their office..

I only need 1 to plug it in!

[edit on 26-8-2010 by Agit8dChop]

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 05:02 AM
This IS the most effective way to get inside,

Low tech, but still the best.

This is the reason why most companies using pc's have the USB ports disabled, most likely the reason why they used a laptop to begin with. If it's in private use by someone from the office, the usb port is most likely on.

It's much easier to get in this way the software just does it's thing on connection and there's no need for hacking the system from the outside in, and if it runs silent, it can spew info for who knows how long before noticed.

Yet getting into the pentagon and pulling it off on the other hand....

[edit on 26/8/10 by Romekje]

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 05:20 AM
The networks I manage; group policy is configured so that users cannot use flash drives or other removable USB media and the workstations themselves don't have optical drives.

These are financial institutions and I don't want this data walking out the door.

Real hard to configure

[edit on 26-8-2010 by crisko]

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 05:29 AM
thats true.

but plugged in is plugged in..

no need for actual software installation.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 05:43 AM
reply to post by silent thunder

sounds like a problem for bill gates and like minded geeks to solve!! and what about all the govt. classified code names who possibly could crack them?? it doesnt sound that simple even if one could get thru the fire walls. i mean military and secret classified...bla bla are entirerly different languages(CODES)!! so could this be ahhhhh hmmmm just one of those leaks that happen from time to time. or are their really ets uncle sam??

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 06:27 AM

Originally posted by Agit8dChop
thats true.

but plugged in is plugged in..

no need for actual software installation.

It won't run off the drive - the drive is not allowed access to system resources.

That's the whole point of the feature.

It won't run.


posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 08:17 AM
I like how this is worded. What I want to know is how did the drive get plugged into the laptop?

Having just finished an IT program this year, one of my instructors covered this as a heads up. He pointed out that one of the basic ploys is to use social engineering to ID where people from the target location go for lunch or coffee breaks and then leave flash drives lying around there.

All it takes is one person to think they have scored a free drive to get access.

The best (or worst) part of this is that it was probably someone higher up who feel victim to this (although that will never be admitted). As other posters have said...the ports should have been disabled to prevent this exact type of attack. The fact that the port was enabled on a work machine tells me that the computer belonged to someone who had authority or a position sufficient enough to have this most basic of security measures over-ruled on thier system.

Or, the Pentagon is/was out of touch and ignorantly thought they would be immune to this.

Reminds me of years ago when I worked at a call center, three times over ten days we had the network fall victim to a vicious virus. Turns out the guilty party was an senior VP at the head office whose laptop had been infected at home and then plugged into the work systems.

He was too important/too busy to go to systems admin and have his laptop scanned.

[edit on 26-8-2010 by [davinci]]

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 09:13 AM
This was on 60 minutes about a year ago.
Apparently the intruders had all the up to date Centcom data.
So in essence, they knew where all of our Military resources were worldwide and up to the minute.

Most of the security is to provide outsider intrusion.
The systems inside the wall of security are considerably more lax.

This is what this spy was obviously aware of and capitalized upon.

For example:

If one has access to a system on the internal network the system and mere access to the power button.

One could reboot the system. Type in the BIOS password if any.
Enter the BIOS, reconfiguring the USB device as the primary boot device. For example.
The sky is the limit here but hypothetically...

Reboot using USB device.

The USB device would load its own OS and executing it's scripts, changing the access rights of anything on the system drives, network group or domain access... as well as installing it's back door programs into the now modifiable Windows startup scripts and other resources.

Remove the USB drive and reconfigure the HD as primary boot device.

Reboot the system using the standard hard drive as normal but the hooks are now installed via the startup scripts and other resident backdoor programs, etc.

There are alot of different ways to skin a cat so to speak....

The key is is operating on a level below that of Windows, before Windows even loads into memory and has the ability to execute it's security measures.

What really kind of sucks though, is that there is probably some guy driving around the DC area in a new Porsche, with a peroxide blond bimbo riding next to him who is paid big bucks to prevent this kind of thing from occurring in the first place !!

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 09:40 AM
Also as to why a few months ago we had a thread here about how MI5 the British equivalent of our FBI were still using Floppy disks on some of their systems containing sensitive data and not providing network access.

Though floppies are archaic, it does prevent one computer from having the capability of infecting their entire network and causing a much more extensive problem.

As was captured in the OP's original thread concerning the Pentagon network breach.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 10:05 AM
2 weeks from now it'll be on wiki leaks.

Other than that, maybe they should, you know, try anti virus software?

I remember when Iran hacked into our UAVs because they were not encrypted. Pretty dumb. You never know.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 10:05 AM

Originally posted by crisko
Real hard to configure

Ahh yes, but there is the very fine and ever shifting line between functionality and security... You could have a network that only has 3 hard-wired desktop terminals per office with CCTV key logging, 24 hour security guard and 2 Doberman s
- Very very secure, not very practical...

Still it's always funny to hear these security faux-pars, I love it when a lap top gets left on the train, or an un encrypted disk is sent to the wrong office. It's usually the nut behind the wheel that takes years off the network admins.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 03:52 PM
reply to post by ElijahWan

Nice piece of software, but it still requires Autorun. I love the terms hackers use for some awkward scenarios, like:

the original Amish technique of using social engineering to trick a user into running the autorun when choosing "Open folder to display files" upon insertion

Amish technique, nice. The thing is, if autorun is enabled for ANY device on a computer, that computer has no basic security.

Still I admit, if someone has physical access to the PC or its owner, job is then made much easier. You just give the military guy a "USB with lots o adult pix" and you can expect your virus to send feedback within 24 hours
. These things are usually done by mail, but USB is as already mentioned "really low tech" technique.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 04:18 PM
reply to post by crisko

Dude, if a foreign government spent x amount of money creating super'spy'flashdrives you don’t think they'd have some sort of super-secret method of immediately infecting and activating once plugged in?

they aren’t using Microsoft drivers to infect government systems now.. it will be something you or I have never even thought of.

posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 07:13 PM
USB Isn't low tech. Oh the contrare. When you can format a usb drive and turn it into a bootable linux death stick you have a serious problem. Most people think of usb drives as just blank sticks of memory for storing stuff. Heavy computer users such as myself, know the potential of such a devious little device. Prime example: I once got a virus on my computer that infects every shell file and executable on your computer and rewrites zeros to everything.

shell files are .dlls used by windows, executables are .exes and are required to run EVERYTHING on a windows based OS. By allowing infected files to be transfered onto a usb drive, i now have a drive that is capable of destroying anyones computer by merely putting the stick in the usb port and allowing the virus to infect their files as they open them.

It's because people like to believe that no usb drive can do anything to anyones computer that they are reformatted as breakers and crackers. The everyday computer user would be mortally terrified at some of the programs and operating systems availible on the internet. Stuff you don't need to be a genious to use, merely download a tutorial to tell you how to use it.

These things are done everyday. Governmental computers don't have some god-like software no one else can use. They use Norton anti-virus. They have more powerful antiviral software for CONSUMER usage than that. Governmental computers aren't some super impervious device that has some sort of unheard of encryptions to keep people out, especially if they are being physically accessed. These are the same computers used by everyone else with the same Windows operating systems.

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