Cyber attack targets include White House and the Pentagon

A powerful internet attack that overwhelmed computers at US and South Korean government agencies for days was even broader than initially realised: targets included the White House, the Pentagon and the New York Stock Exchange and other official websites in the most widespread cyber offensive of recent years.

Other targets of the attack included the National Security Agency, Homeland Security Department, State Department, the Nasdaq stock market and The Washington Post newspaper, according to an early analysis of the malicious software used in the attacks.



The cyber assault on the White House site had "absolutely no effect on the White House's day-to-day operations," said spokesman Nick Shapiro.



Preventative measures kept the WhiteHouse.gov site "stable and available to the general public," Shapiro said, but internet visitors from Asia may have experienced problems.



South Korean intelligence officials believe the attacks were carried out by North Korea or pro-Pyongyang forces, but many experts in cyber warfare said it was simply too early to know where the offensive originated.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service, its principal spy agency, told South Korean lawmakers Wednesday it believes that North Korea or North Korean sympathisers in the South were behind the attacks, according to an aide to one of the lawmakers briefed on the information.



The aide spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the information. The intelligence service said it could not immediately confirm the report, but it said it was cooperating with American authorities.



The attacks will be difficult to trace, said Professor Peter Sommer, an expert on cyberterrorism at the London School of Economics. "Even if you are right about the fact of being attacked, initial diagnoses are often wrong," he said Wednesday.



Many of the US government targets appeared to have blunted the sustained computer assaults successfully. Others, such as the US Treasury Department, were knocked offline at times.



Two government officials acknowledged that Treasury's site was brought down, and said the agency had been working with its internet service provider to resolve the problem. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.



As of last night, Shapiro said, "all federal websites were back up and running." Shapiro said that the Department of Homeland Security "is aware of the DDOS attacks on federal and private sector public-facing websites."



Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the US Secret Service, said that the cyber attacks slowed down access to the agency's website, which operates on the same computer server as Treasury's site.



Secret Service's site remained in operation despite the crippling effects of the cyber offensive, Donovan said.



"Our site was never knocked down, but it was slowed down at points," Donovan said. He added that Secret Service's "operational side" was not affected.



The Associated Press obtained the target list from security experts analysing the attacks. It was not immediately clear who might have been responsible or what their motives were.



The cyber attack did not appear, at least at the outset, to target internal or classified files or systems, but instead aimed at agencies' public websites, creating a nuisance both for officials and the web consumers who use them.



The attacks appeared remarkably successful in limiting public access to victim websites, but internal email systems are typically unaffected in such attacks.



Ben Rushlo, director of internet technologies at Keynote Systems, said problems with the Transportation Department site began on Saturday and continued until Monday, while the Federal Trade Commission site was down Sunday and Monday.



Keynote Systems is a mobile and website monitoring company based in San Mateo, California. The company publishes data detailing outages on websites, including 40 government sites it watches.



According to Rushlo, the Transportation website was "100 per cent down" for two days, so that no internet users could get through to it.



The FTC site, meanwhile, started to come back online late Sunday, but even on Tuesday internet users still were unable to get to the site 70 per cent of the time.



Dale Meyerrose, former chief information officer for the US intelligence community, said at least one of the federal agency websites became saturated with as many as a million hits per second per attack - amounting to 4 billion internet hits at once.



He would not identify the agency, but said the website generally is capable of handling a level of about 25,000 users at one time.



Meyerrose, who is now vice president at Harris, said federal officials are divided on the whether a botnet was involved, but said the characteristics of the attack suggest the involvement of between 30,000 to 60,000 computers that participated in the assault.



While he said officials were investigating the incident, it appeared one attack occurred on July 4 that some agencies were able to contain, and then a second round came on July 7.



Meyerrose said that since the attackers would have used surrogate computers, it is still too early to tell where it originated.



James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, says the fact that both the White House and defence Department were attacked but did not go down points to the need for coordinated government network defences.



"It says that they were ready and the other guys weren't ready," he said. "We are disorganised. In the event of an attack some places aren't going to be able to defend themselves."



Attacks on federal computer networks are common, ranging from nuisance hacking to more serious assaults, sometimes blamed on China. US security officials also worry about cyber attacks from al-Qaeda or other groups.



Web sites of major South Korean government agencies, including the presidential Blue House and the defence Ministry, and some banking sites were paralysed Tuesday.



An initial investigation found that many personal computers were infected with a virus ordering them to visit major official websites in South Korea and the US at the same time, Korea Information Security Agency official Shin Hwa-su said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
The coffin containing the remains of King Richard III is carried on a procession for interrment at Leicester Cathedral on 22 March 2015 in Leicester, England.
news
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?