Foreign powers probing U.S. networks: official : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Foreign powers probing U.S. networks: official Updated 6:09 PM ET June 19, 2000 By Jim Wolf WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top aide to President Clinton said Monday that unspecified hostile countries were probing U.S. computer networks for ways to spark mayhem if war broke out.

"This is not theoretical. It's real," said Richard Clarke, the White House National Security Council staff coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism.

For years, Clarke has been warning of the threat of an "electronic Pearl Harbor" in the form of blitzes on the computerized infrastructure that increasingly binds the United States.

In remarks to a cyber-security conference, he said several countries were carrying out "electronic reconnaissance today on our civilian infrastructure computer networks."

They were "looking for ways that they could attack the United States in a time of war," Clarke told the session organized by the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research group in Washington.

He declined to identify any power allegedly carrying out such surveillance and also declined to contradict a fellow panel member, Richard Perle, who singled out North Korea by name.

Perle, an assistant U.S. secretary of defense for international security policy from 1981 to 1987, said U.S. authorities had detected "intrusions" into U.S. networks from North Korea, the last Stalinist bastion. He said North Korean hackers had left behind a malicious code designed for possible activation as a kind of Trojan horse.

Pressed on the source of his information, Perle handed the question to Clarke, who said he would leave it to the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, to declassify the identities of alleged culprits.

CIA and other national security officials have told Congress that China and Russia are among countries allegedly developing "information warfare" capabilities to deal with lopsided U.S. conventional force strength.

For its part, the U.S. Defense Department plans to make cyber blitzes on a foe's computer networks a standard tool of war, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, now the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in January.


Clarke, in his comments to the conference, said he was trying to prod Congress and the public to ward off a potential computer attack "in which cities have lost electrical power and telephones, gas pipelines are blowing up across the country, trains have been derailed across the country,"

"A lot of people are going to be willing to throw civil liberties out the window" after any such computer attack, he said.

"I don't know that we had enemy aircraft flying over Pearl Harbor day after day before the attack for reconnaissance," he said. "If we did, we might have done something about it."

"Well, we have the equivalent today of enemy aircraft flying over the target ... doing electronic reconnaissance on our networks.

"And I cannot understand how we as a nation don't see that and don't react," Clarke added, faulting the Republican-led Congress for failing to fund new cyber-security programs called for in Clinton's budget for fiscal 2001, which begins Oct. 1.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno urged high-tech companies to step up cooperation with law enforcement officials battling cyber crime.

Acknowledging private-sector qualms about divulging security breaches, she vowed to minimize the impact of federal investigations on cyber-crime victims.

"Today, I call on leaders in the high-tech industry to address this problem and take concrete steps to report and encourage others to report cyber-crime incidents to law enforcement," she told a "Cyber Crime summit" in Herndon, Virginia, outside Washington.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 19, 2000

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