Hackers Target Commerce Dept. Computers

Chinese hackers are deviling the U.S. Department of Commerce, forcing the agency to replace workstations and bar employee use of the Internet from their own work computers.

The targets of the attacks were computers in the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which oversees a number of commercial U.S. exports having both commercial and military uses, including software and technology.

No data was compromised in the attacks, according to the agency.

“The BIS discovered targeted efforts to gain access to BIS user accounts,” a spokesman for the agency told internetnews.com. “There is no evidence BIS data has been compromised.”

A source familiar with the attacks said, “Some of the URLs were listed as Chinese Internet service providers.”

The attacks were discovered over the course of last summer. The BIS, according to the agency spokesman, took a “series of action steps” to protect sensitive data.

The BIS replaced workstations and since Sept. 1, employees are not allowed to access the Internet from their work computers. Instead, the BIS established Internet access for employees on computers not connected to the BIS network.

In fiscal year 2004, China was the destination of the largest number of approved export licenses.

Last month, the Commerce Department, which has been frequently criticized for its security, announced more than 1,100 laptops are missing from the agency, based on an inventory survey dating back to 2001.

“All of the equipment that was lost or stolen contained protections to prevent a breach of personal information,” Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said in September.

“The amount of missing computers is high, but fortunately, the vulnerability for data misuse is low.”

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