(Newsbytes via NewsEdge) Hackers operating through Chinese Internet servers have launched a debilitating attack on the computer system of the US Commerce Department bureau, forcing it to replace hundreds of workstations and block employees from regular use of the Internet for more than a month, officials said.
The attack targeted the computers of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which is responsible for controlling US exports of commodities, software and technology having both commercial and military uses.
The bureau has stepped up its activity in regulating trade with China in recent years as the US increased its exports of such dual-use items to the growing Chinese market.
This marked the second time in recent months that US officials confirmed that a major attack traced to China had succeeded in penetrating government computers.
'Through established security procedures, the BIS discovered a targeted effort to gain access to BIS user accounts,' said Commerce Department spokesman Richard Mills. 'We have no evidence that BIS data has been lost or compromised.'
The significance of the attacks was underscored in a series of emails sent to BIS employees by acting Undersecretary of Commerce Mark Foulon since July, informing them of 'a number of serious threats to the integrity of our systems and data.'
A source familiar with the security breach said the hackers had penetrated the computers with a 'rootkit' program, a stealthy form of software that allows attackers to mask their presence. The attacks were traced to Web sites registered on Chinese Internet service providers, officials said.
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