Uncle Sam recruits, warns hackers

Government computer security heavyweights came recruiting for help fighting

cyberterrorists at the DefCon 8 hacker convention in Las Vegas.

Panelists on Friday urged several hundred members of the computer underground

to help battle computer-based attacks.

Government computers annually sustain some 21,400 unauthorized computer

probes and attacks, according to Arthur Money, assistant secretary of Defense

for command, control, communications and intelligence. Every day, seven

or eight of those attacks show a level of sophistication that proves the

threat of cyberterrorism is growing, both domestically and internationally.

Money also warned hackers in the audience that his team of security experts

must treat every hacking incident as if it were a directed threat by an

aggressive agent or organization out to harm the United States.

"When our systems come under attack, we don't know if you're a kid doing

it for giggles or if you're working for Osama bin Laden's group," Money

said. "We can't just tell at the beginning of a hack what your intentions

are."

At one point, the discussion turned into a barely-couched recruitment drive

for the Defense Department. Money invited "the best of the best" to join

his team and help defend government computers against foreign attacks.

"Don't bother applying if you're just average," Money said.

Dick Schafer, director of information assurance for DOD, added to the recruiting

pitch. "No one here has a set of toys as neat as what we've got," he said.

By the boisterous and negative reaction to many of the panel's comments,

they may get few takers. Most of the audience also booed and hissed when

panelists asserted the government's need to restrict access to strong data

encryption software in order to protect people.

Money also issued a warning, saying that proposed legislation for speeding

prosecution of computer crimes would increase the penalties for malicious

attacks and make it easier to investigate suspected crimes by freeing law-enforcement

officials from restrictive wiretap laws.

If the proposed legislation passes, he added, computer attacks against DOD

would become a national security violation instead of just a criminal action.

The bill would give DOD "the ability to talk back, trace back and attack

back," Money said.

Mathew Schwartz, Computerworld online, contributed to this report. Article

distributed by IDG News Service.

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