Computer Crime Research Center


Cisco hacker arrested

Date: May 11, 2005
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: CCRC staff

A global investigation into the theft of a key piece of software that forms the "backbone" of the worldwide web has led to an arrest of a suspected hacker in Sweden.

The news followed claims that an internet break-in at Cisco Systems in California last year, which led to a hacker accessing part of Cisco's key IOS source code, was just one part of an extensive operation in which thousands of systems were penetrated.

It is believed that the case has involved attacks on computer systems involving the United States military, NASA and university research laboratories.

Shortly after its theft, the Cisco code was posted on a Russian website in an move designed to prove it had been stolen, to the obvious embarrassment of Cisco, whose core products include secure business networks.

A search is also under way in Britain and elsewhere in Europe for possible accomplices, a bureau spokesman said yesterday, but gave no further details.

"We've been working on this very closely with our international partners in Sweden, Britain, and others, and the criminal activity has stopped," the spokesman said.

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According to the New York Times, the attack was launched from the University of Uppsala. A 16-year-old from Uppsala was charged in March with breaking into the university computers.

The investigation began a year ago when the intruder, codenamed Stakkato, breached security at Cisco Systems, a producer of computer networking equipment, and stole programming instructions for many of the routers and switches that serve as conduits for the internet.

The hacker, or group of hackers, also broke into several US supercomputer laboratories connected through a high-speed network called the TeraGrid, and used stolen passwords to infiltrate websites of military bases and Nasa.

A missile base at White Sands in New Mexico acknowledged its computer system had been compromised, but claimed that only weather forecast information had been taken.

Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, California, was also targeted.

Alan Paller, the director of research at the SANS Institute, a cyber security training organisation, said the internet attacks demonstrated the continuing vulnerability of seemingly closely guarded websites.

"The dirty little secret of security is that even in organisations that have high security, operational problems cause those organisations not to patch," Mr Paller said.

Investigators believe Stakkato wanted to brag about the stolen passwords in chatrooms. But other hackers may have more dangerous motives.

"If you find a kid who has done this, there will be people with economic and military motives who have done it and are not bragging," he said.

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2005-05-27 07:04:20 - trend: hackers are growing, security is... junn
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