Intell chief: Source of cyberattacks still unknown

Director of National Intelligence says U.S. not yet sure who was behind attacks

U.S. authorities haven’t figured out who was behind the recent cyberattacks that temporarily knocked some federal Web sites off-line, the country’s top intelligence official said today.

Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, said officials haven’t learned who carried out the attacks that hijacked tens of thousands of computers around the world. Affected computers sent out massive amounts of information to overwhelm systems, which shut down government sites in the United States and South Korea.

Blair said the government is working with partners in other nations to compare data to nail down who was behind the attacks that he called a “relatively unsophisticated botnet-type attack.”

After the attacks, initial press reports said South Korean intelligence authorities suspected that North Korea or its supporters were involved. However, security experts have said definitively identifying who is behind the cyberattacks might be difficult, if not impossible.

In March, Blair told reporters that improving authorities' abilities to attribute cyberattacks was a high priority.

“The reason that it’s taking as long as it has is that like most Internet attackers, the person who perpetrated this attack went through a series of cutouts, different [Internet Protocol addresses], and the process of going back and sorting that out just takes some time,” Blair said after a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

However, Blair said information about the system vulnerabilities that made the attacks possible was shared quickly to make sure others were protected.

In addition, Blair said it’s important to improve information sharing and warnings about cybersecurity vulnerabilities. He also said the United States needs to bolster its efforts related to the negotiation of the international cybersecurity standards, protocols and agreements.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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