Air Force fights off probes

An unusually high number of electronic probes were made against the computer network at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, last week, but the system was not hacked, according to the Air Force.

About 125,000 attempts were made between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on March 22, said Lt. Tana Hamilton, a public affairs officer at the Aeronautical Systems Center. She confirmed earlier media reports that the probes originated outside the United States, but said she could not detail any of the Air Force's subsequent security or investigation procedures.

Hamilton also said those earlier reports calling the cyber intruders seeking illegal access "hackers" were incorrect, since that suggests they had entered the Air Force's systems, which they did not. She added that Air Force computer systems are probed all the time, but the high volume in a short time period is what garnered the attention of officials.

Last May, the Air Force launched a program that co-located two cybercrime agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) at the Air Force Materiel Command's Network Operation and Security Center at Wright-Patterson in an effort to defend its military Web sites against hacker attacks.

The Materiel Command owns five sites among the Defense Department's most frequently scanned or probed networks by cyber intruders seeking illegal access. The sites are targets because of a heavy focus on technology research. One example is the Air Force Research Laboratory, which develops technology for information warfare tools, air and space vehicles, sensors and munitions.

Hamilton said it is Air Force policy to not "discuss specifics of intrusion attempts into our computer systems," and therefore could not comment as to whether the cybercrime agents helped defend the Wright-Patterson network during last week's events.

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