10 May 2005 A breach of switch-making giant Cisco’s network last year was just part of a wide-ranging operation targeting systems including NASA’s and the US military according to the FBI and Swedish police.
According to reports in The New York Times federal officials have now said that the attack on Cisco was part of a far wider operation that involved up to a thousand computers.
It is believed that either a single hacker or a small band of cyber criminals were responsible for stealing and publishing lines of the networking giant’s code on a Russian web site.
And still the extent of data taken or destroyed is not known. The code in question was from the operating system for Cisco’s routers, which direct traffic over the Internet. Cisco said it “believes that the improper publication of this information does not create increased risk to customers’ networks.”
Security specialists at US supercomputer labs discovered Cisco software had been stolen in May 2004. While they notified the company of the breach, since the data was taken almost immediately, Cisco was unable to prevent its network being compromised.
It has since emerged that Cisco was not the only victim: Investigators had to install surveillance software on the University of Minnesota’s computer network after they discovered a hacker was using it to stage Internet attacks – managing to gain root access to over 50 locations; computers at several NASA sites were breached; and the US Navy’s computers at White Sands Missile Range were compromised.
Presently the investigation is focused on a university network in Uppsala, Sweden. In March this year, a 16-year-old there was charged with breaking into the university’s computers.