May 10 2013
The United States government is investing tens of millions of dollars each year on offensive hacking operations in order to exploit vulnerabilities in the computers of its adversaries, Reuters reports.
According to an in-depth article published Friday by journalist Joseph Menn, the US and its Department of Defense contractors are increasingly pursuing efforts to hack the computers of foreign competitors, in turn exposing a rarely discussed aspect of the nation’s clandestine cyber operations.
In a time when the government continues to prosecute alleged domestic computer criminals — so much so that demands for technology law reform have been rampant as of late — Menn says the US is guilty of spending millions on discovering, identifying and exploiting previously unknown security flaws, often gaining unfettered access to the systems and networks of international targets.
As a result, the US has become one of the world’s top players in regards to wreaking havoc over the Internet — even as calls to investigate foreign hackers increase in Congress.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan supported proposal was introduced in Congress specifically to protect US commercial data from being compromised by foreign hackers. According to Menn, however, the American government is just as guilty of cybercrimes as the countries it warns against in introducing the “Deter Cyber Theft Act.”
“Even as the US government confronts rival powers over widespread Internet espionage, it has become the biggest buyer in a burgeoning gray market where hackers and security firms sell tools for breaking into computers,” Menn wrote.
In his report, Menn explained that a large chunk of the country’s current cyber endeavors does not rely on defensive strategy as one might imagine, but instead involves offensive operations launched with the intent of causing harm on the computers of adversaries.
Menn wrote defense contractors “spend at least tens of millions of dollars a year” on simply researching exploits that, if pursued, could put the eyes and ears of the American intelligence company essentially anywhere in the world.
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