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Cyber attack targets key federal agencies

Some problems continue. Attacks in South Korea may be linked.

July 08, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4 knocked out the websites of several government agencies, including some that are responsible for fighting cyber crime, the Associated Press has learned.

The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department websites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government. Some sites were still experiencing problems Tuesday evening. Cyber attacks on South Korean government and private sites also may be linked, officials there said.

U.S. officials refused to publicly discuss details of the cyber attack. But Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, said the agency's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a notice to federal departments and other partner organizations about the problems and "advised them of steps to take to help mitigate against such attacks."

The U.S., she said, sees attacks on its networks every day, and measures have been put in place to minimize the effect on federal websites.

It was not clear whether other federal government sites also were attacked.

Others familiar with the U.S. outage, which is called a denial of service attack, said that the fact that the government websites were still being affected three days after it began signaled an unusually lengthy and sophisticated attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

Websites of major South Korean government agencies, banks and Internet sites also were paralyzed in a suspected cyber attack Tuesday. An initial investigation found that many personal computers were infected with a virus ordering them to visit major official websites in South Korea and the U.S. at the same time, Korea Information Security Agency official Shin Hwa-su said.

The South Korean sites included the presidential Blue House, the Defense Ministry, the National Assembly, Shinhan Bank, Korea Exchange Bank and top Internet portal Naver. They went down or had access problems since late Tuesday, said Ahn Jeong-eun, a spokeswoman at the Korea Information Security Agency.

Kudwa had no comment on the South Korean attacks.

Two U.S. officials acknowledged that the Treasury and Secret Service sites were brought down and said they were working on the problem.

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