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October 7, 1999

Cyberterrorism? Experts Question Russian Data Raid

By CBR Staff Writer

By Rachel Chalmers

Russian crackers may have stolen sensitive information from US military networks. Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology and Terrorism, Michael Vatis, director of the National Infrastructure Protection Committee (NIPC) within the FBI, has provided the first public confirmation of the existence of Moonlight Maze, a year-long investigation into intrusions into Defense Department and other federal and private computer systems. The attacks appeared to have originated within the Russian Academy of Sciences. Circumstantial details, such as the fact that the attacks occurred only during Moscow’s business hours, appeared to confirm the existence of Russian government- sponsored intelligence activities. While the US government’s classified computers do not appear to have been compromised, its unclassified networks contain plenty of confidential and sensitive data, officials said.

Russia’s foreign intelligence service has, however, denied all knowledge of the attacks. Do you think Russian special services are so stupid as to engage in such activities directly from Moscow? spokesman Boris Labusov asked Wired News. For decades, everybody has written about how clever the KGB and Soviet intelligence are. Why should one think we suddenly became less clever in the last few years? The academy has also denied any involvement with the break-ins. A cynic might wonder whether Vatis’s testimony, like the alarmist article rejected for publication in Jane’s Intelligence Review (see separate story), was simply a covert plea on the part of the FBI and NIPC for more generous funding.

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