Hackers hit Sandia

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March 16, 2001 Notes from the Pentagon

Hackers hit Sandia The U.S. intelligence community is conducting a damage assessment of a major hacker incident involving Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. "It's big," said an official familiar with the incident. Few details could be learned, however.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, hackers suspected of having links to a foreign government successfully broke into Sandia's computer system and were able to access sensitive classified information. The incident took place in the past several weeks.

The suspected governments, according to the officials, include Russia, China, Iraq or North Korea all nations thought to have well-developed information-warfare capabilities.

"It's an ongoing effort to figure the origin of these kinds of attacks," said another intelligence official.

Sandia is one of three Energy Department laboratories that are major targets of foreign intelligence services, according to intelligence reports. Sandia is operated for the department by Lockheed Martin Co. and builds all non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons, including high explosives used to trigger nuclear blasts. It also works on developing nuclear monitoring and has an international center that has numerous foreign visitors.

In 1999, all classified computers at Sandia and two other Energy Department laboratories were shut down for a security review aimed at improving cyber-security.

Spokesmen for Sandia, the CIA and Energy Department declined to comment on the incident, citing policies of not discussing intelligence matters.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 16, 2001

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