Hackers' attack on AF blunted
- By Bob Brewin
- Jan 05, 1997
Hackers successfully spoofed and replaced an Air Force World Wide Web page last week but Air Force and Pentagon officials emphasized that the attackers did not penetrate the main Web servers that support a number of other Defense Department Web sites.
According to Capt. Terry Bowman the Air Force's Webmaster on Sunday Dec. 29 hackers penetrated and took over a "place holder" Web site with the address of af.mil instead of the actual address dtic.dla.mil/airforcelink.
"[af.mill] is not the address for Air Force Link but we put up a separate Silicon Graphics workstation at that address to intercept people who think that's our logical address.... That machine then sends people over to the [Defense Technical Information Center] servers."
Bowman said the DTIC servers hosting Air Force Link were not affected by the attack adding that anyone who accessed Air Force Link would not see the false Web page put up by the hackers. That page replaced the main Air Force Link Web page photo with an obscene photograph as well as new links including one to the "Area 51" Web page which offers an unofficial look at operations at a secret and highly classified Air Force base located at Groom Lake Nev. (ufo.mind.com/Area 51) .
The hackers were able to gain access to the place holder site Bowman said "because through some administrative snafus that server was not typical of our security practices.... Clearly [the hackers] figured that out."
Kurt Mulholm DTIC's director agreed with that assessment. He said the "temporary site had some [security] gaps that we do not have in our other systems." As a precaution Mulholm said DTIC did shut down all 80 servers supporting a variety of DOD Web sites including the main DefenseLink system.
Mulholm denied a New York Times report that quoted the unidentified hackers as saying they had penetrated far and wide into the DTIC and Air Force Link servers. Bowman said the mirror server hosted only two pages which minimized the damage the hackers could do.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the FBI are investigating the hacker attack and Bowman said he is confident the perpetrators would be caught. "No one goes into a computer without leaving traces " said Bowman who declined to identify the nature of those traces. "We take such attacks seriously and intend to prosecute whoever did it."
Mulholm expressed frustration at the attack - the latest in a series against federal Web pages including those of the CIA and Justice Department - because "while the government is trying to open itself up to the public the hackers are trying to destroy that capability." The nature of the Web leads to such attacks Mulholm conceded but the desire to serve the public also mitigates DTIC taking security measures that would shut out innocent users. "We could put in security measures that would probably totally defeat hacking&hellip but then no one would be able to get into the system either.