Cyberattacks Down as U.S. Boosts Systems Security

The number of recorded malicious attacks against Department of Defense information systems may be down this year for the first time in a decade if current trends continue, says a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The report detailing the economic and security implications of a relationship with China provides figures from the Defense Department showing 60,026 incidents through June 30, compared to 71,661 for all of 2009, the high point of the decade.

Cybercommand on the Front Line

But the report, which notes that not all the attacks listed originated in China (detailed information was not provided by the DOD), also says any decline may not be for lack of trying.

“This may or may not represent a decrease in the volume of attempts to penetrate defense and military networks,” said the report, delivered to Congress on Wednesday. “The Defense Department explained the lower figures as resulting from measures taken to mitigate threats before they reach the threshold that merits an incident log entry. Specifically, the department cited ‘greater visibility of threat activity, vulnerability and ultimately risk by leaders at all levels across [the Department of Defense]’ in addition to greater resources, enhanced perimeter defenses, and the establishment of U.S. Cyber Command.”

The Cyber Command was established by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in May under the leadership of Gen. Keith Alexander.

In addition to attacks on military systems, hackers tied to China have also extensively targeted private U.S. corporations, most notably in January when a sophisticated operation dubbed Aurora was discovered hunting for intellectual property, including source code, in the internal systems of Google, as well as the Google e-mail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists.

A few months later, the report says, a server in China somehow swallowed up 15 percent of the world’s Internet traffic for about 20 minutes.

“For a brief period…

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