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Army defense task force targeting hackers

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The U.S. Army has set up a task force to counter the theft of sensitive data by hackers breaking into the computer networks of military contractors.

The Defense Industrial Base Cyber-Security Task Force was quietly established earlier this year, in the face of what an Army document says are continuing large-scale thefts of "controlled unclassified information" from contractor systems.

"Exfiltrations of unclassified data from [military contractor computer] systems have occurred and continue to occur, potentially undermining and even neutralizing the technological advantage and combat effectiveness of the future force," the document says.

At stake is sensitive data "used in the development of war-fighting systems during the acquisition life-cycle." In military lingo, that means information about weapons programs being developed and produced by private-sector contractors.

The document, produced in August for the Pentagon's department for acquisition, technology and logistics and first reported last week by Inside Defense, says that the task force will also address the fact that the increasing use of non-U.S. suppliers "raises the risk that adversaries could insert malicious or counterfeit components into U.S. Army weapons systems."

A report last year from the Defense Science Board warned that the globalization of the supply chain, with software for high-technology systems increasingly developed outside the United States, created targets for unfriendly countries or other U.S. adversaries.

The task force is also coordinating an interagency pilot program to assess the impact of past cyber-attacks against contractors "to determine whether there may have been compromises of data on current and future U.S. Army weapons program, scientific and research projects and war-fighting capabilities that could cause a loss of technological advantage against our adversaries."

The effort will focus on companies making technology for "command control communications, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance" systems, the document says.

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