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Thursday, April 23, 1998 Published at 04:15 GMT 05:15 UK


Hackers target Nasa and Pentagon
image: [ The Pentagon says the information stolen by the hackers was not classified ]
The Pentagon says the information stolen by the hackers was not classified

An international group of computer hackers has broken into Pentagon computer systems and also claims to have stolen key software programs from NASA.

The group calls itself the "Masters of Downloading" or MOD and is made up of eight American, five British and two Russian members.

The BBC's Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall reports from Chicago on the hacking (1'32")
It says the information it has hacked into will allow the group "to pass undetected" through the US space agency's systems.

It also claims to have broken into another sensitive site, the Pentagon's Defence Information Systems Network (DISN).

The DISN is key to a number of military systems including the Global Positioning System satellite network which US military planners use for everything from missile targeting to troop movement information.

Terrorist threat

[ image: Some of the hackers claim to be computer security specialists]
Some of the hackers claim to be computer security specialists
The MOD said it might consider selling the information to international terrorist groups or foreign governments.

The US Defence Department in Washington confirmed an intrusion had taken place but officials said the information downloaded was for management and record-keeping and was not classified.

Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Hansen added: "The equipment management software suite of the Defence Information System Network is an unclassified application.

"It does not contain classified information and does not perform control of classified systems."

Sophisticated hackers

Computer expert John Vranesevich, who runs the AntiOnline website, said that MOD had contacted him with the claims about a break-in at NASA.

He said: "They have access to a lot more than they've given to me, or let me know about.

"The materials that they've supplied to me are the bottom of the totem pole, they are boosting their credibility with proof that they can get into these various systems."

According to MOD, members of the group broke into system through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

They claim to have taken enough information effectively to disable any "intruder alert" system the agency's computers might have.

NASA has yet to comment on the group's claims.

Vranesevich, who has conducted several online interviews with MOD members, said they appeared both more mature and dangerous than the teenage hackers who mounted a widely-publicised attack on the Pentagon in February.

"They are much more secretive, much more careful, and much more sophisticated," said Vranesevich, who was instrumental in tracking down the 18-year-old Israeli master-hacker known as the "Analyzer".

He said MOD members contacted him using an elaborate system of passwords and covered their tracks by routing communication through a variety of computer systems all over the world.


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