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[ISN] Hackers Claim NSA Breach
From: InfoSec News (isnc4i.org)
Date: Fri Mar 21 2003 - 01:05:52 CST
By Kevin Poulsen
March 20 2003
Hackers claim to have compromised a computer at the National Security
Agency in Ft. Meade, Maryland. But their target was the least
secretive organization imaginable within the massive intelligence
agency: the public affairs office.
And instead of scoring a cache of highly-classified documents about
the NSA's global surveillance work, the purported hackers mostly just
obtained a few biographies of agency personnel, and a handful of
private, but routine, correspondences between NSA spokespersons and
media outlets, including CNN and Forbes.
The letters arrived at SecurityFocus Thursday morning as attachments
to a short e-mail message listing the Internet IP and e-mail addresses
for the agency's public affairs office, and the message "Please find
attached some documents from Don and Trisha Weber, NSA."
A NSA spokesperson confirmed that Don Weber works in the office, but
otherwise refused to comment.
In addition to the press material, the documents included a short NSA
phone directory, and a four-page reference guide on handling outgoing
e-mail problems, with advice on how to respond if an e-mail is
rejected for foul language, or for user errors like attempting "to
send [a] SECRET message from a SECRET to Unclassified" destination. A
more recent version of the same document is available publicly from a
Defense Department website.
Journalist and NSA expert James Bamford says the apparent breach
probably isn't a threat to national security.
"I haven't heard of an NSA computer being hacked into before," says
Bamford. "I certainly don't think that it's acceptable that even
unclassified computers can be hacked into there, but it doesn't sound
like they've gotten beyond the non-classified computers in public
An e-mail message sent to the hackers' address in Switzerland was not
immediately answered Thursday. The group signed their message "Nescafé
Open Up", the slogan of an ad campaign for flavored instant-coffee.
The hackers' motives aren't clear, but may be related to the United
States' military action against Iraq, which, like past conflicts, has
already spurred a rash of protest website defacements. The hackers'
e-mail included a distribution list of approximately 500 e-mail
addresses, most of which belong to the U.S. military.
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