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CIA Shuts Internet Site After Hacker Breaks In, Defaces It

September 20, 1996|NORMAN KEMPSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The CIA shut down its Internet home page Thursday after Swedish hackers broke in, changed the name to Central Stupidity Agency and replaced the usual offering of speech texts and news releases with "news from space" and "nude girls."

The hackers, calling themselves "Power Through Resistance," also slammed Bo Skarinder, a prosecutor in a Swedish court case, urging him to "Stop Lying."

The case involves a group of hackers ages of 16 to 20 who went on trial this week.

Embarrassed U.S. officials ordered an investigation to find out why the Web site was vulnerable to penetration and to identify who was responsible.

Mark Mansfield, a spokesman for the CIA, said that the incident did not compromise any of the intelligence agency's secrets because the home page is separate from the classified mainframe computer.

"The home page is not tied into any operational or classified information," Mansfield said. "This certainly doesn't constitute a breach of national security. Once we recognized there was a problem, we shut down the home page."

He said that electronic security is far higher on computer networks that carry the nation's secrets than it is on the Web site, which is intended for use by the public.

Nevertheless, the latest incident added to growing concern about the security of government computer systems. Last month, the Justice Department was forced to close down its home page for a few days after hackers changed the header to Department of Injustice and inserted a swastika and photo of Adolf Hitler.

Like the CIA, the Justice Department insisted that its confidential files are far harder to penetrate than the Web site--which is intended to be open to the public, albeit on a "read only" basis.

Aside from the embarrassment of seeing its public relations home page defaced by insults, Mansfield said that there was only minimal damage to the CIA.

"It is an inconvenience to the people who access it," he said. "It also pulled some of our people away from other work to take down the system and then get it up and running again.

"We normally get 120,000 hits a week. It is quite popular. People access it from all over the world."

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