Wednesday, September 4, 2013

U.S. Spy Agencies Mounted 231 Offensive Cyber-Operations in 2011, Documents Show

The Washington Post (08/30/13) Barton Gellman; Ellen Nakashima 

U.S. intelligence services completed 231 offensive cyber operations in 2011, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Washington Post. That revelation provides new evidence that the Obama administration is increasingly trying to infiltrate and disrupt foreign computer networks. In addition, as part of a project code-named GENIE, U.S. cyberwarriors break into foreign networks so that they can be put under surreptitious U.S. control. GENIE, a $652-million project, has placed sophisticated malware in computers, routers, and firewalls on tens of thousands of foreign machines, according to budget documents. "The policy debate has moved so that offensive options are more prominent now," says former deputy defense secretary William J. Lynn III. "I think there's more of a case made now that offensive cyberoptions can be an important element in deterring certain adversaries." Of the 231 offensive operations conducted in 2011, about 75 percent were against top-priority targets, such as Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea. The U.S. government's cyberoperations include a National Security Agency group called Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which builds custom-fitted attack tools. TAO has developed software templates designed to break into common brands and models of "routers, switches, and firewalls," according to one document.