Cyber War Games Pit Hackers Vs. Military

Missile defense systems, communications networks - everything that makes the military work is at risk around-the-clock. cyber crime security keteyian EN 5 30 09 CBS

It may not look like a battleground, but behind the walls at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are the front lines in the booming cyber war against hackers driven to disrupt - even destroy - vital U.S. military networks and investigators intent on protecting them.

"What we want to do is protect the way we do business, protect the Air Force, and protect our country from this kind of harm," Brigadier General Dana Simmons said.

At the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, agents identify and attempt to neutralize criminal, terrorist and espionage computer threats of every kind, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian. They have 11 field offices around the world.

Using brains and bytes, agents like Paul Alvarez play a high-tech game of cat and mouse - running traces, tracking IP address, assessing damage, plugging security holes in the network by erasing viruses and fixing programs and searching for the source of nameless, faceless intruders. There are thousands of attempts every day.

"We basically peel the onion layers back to find out where the core attack came from," Alvarez said. "We call them hot points. We'll chase them from computer to computer to end point to find out who really did it."

The only constant in the attacks: they come around the clock, and from around the globe.

"Now you're seeing a wide variety -- from major criminal enterprises to foreign adversaries," Alvarez said.

At risk: missile defense systems, communications networks - everything that makes the military work.

The Department of Defense says it has spent more than $100 million in just the last six months repairing the damage done by cyber attacks.

"It's a growing threat," Simmons said. "And it's growing by leaps and bounds."

Twenty-first century war games with nothing less than our national security at stake.

  • CBSNews

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