US military’s use of Microsoft Windows lets hacker run wild

“To hear the US government tell it, Gary McKinnon is a dangerous man, and should be extradited back to America to stand trial in a Virginia courtroom,” Clark Boyd reports for BBC News. “One US prosecutor has accused him of committing ‘the biggest military computer hack of all time.’ If extradited, Mr McKinnon could face decades in US jail, and fines of close to $2m.”

“The US government alleges that between February 2001 and March 2002, the 40-year-old computer enthusiast from North London hacked into dozens of US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Defense computers, as well as 16 Nasa computers,” Boyd reports. “It says his hacking caused some $700,000 dollars worth of damage to government systems. What’s more, they allege that Mr McKinnon altered and deleted files at a US Naval Air Station not long after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and that the attack rendered critical systems inoperable. The US government also says Mr McKinnon once took down an entire network of 2,000 US Army computers. His goal, they claim, was to access classified information.”

McKinnon admits “that he hacked into dozens of US government computer systems. In fact, he calmly detailed just how easy it was to access extremely sensitive information in those systems. ‘I found out that the US military use Windows,’ said Mr McKinnon in that BBC interview. ‘And having realised this, I assumed it would probably be an easy hack if they hadn’t secured it properly.’ Using commercially available software, Mr McKinnon probed dozens of US military and government networks. He found many machines without adequate password or firewall protection. So, he simply hacked into them,” Boyd reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: That the US military would use insecure Microsoft Windows operating systems for any computer containing sensitive information is beyond belief.

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59 Comments

  1. Trust me, the military is not that dumb to use a common operating system for sensitive data.

    They do have Windows PC’s around to give that impression, to catch hackers and spy’s and such.

    They also have Windows PC’s around to create the image that they are a all Windows opertation to mask their use of a really secure, unreleased operating system.

    This is why the US Governement props up Microsoft so much to keep it dominant. If everyone else is using a insecure operating system and that’s basically the only thing the rest of the world can get, that gives the military a great tatical advantage.

    Of course they can’t let on that they are using anything else or else all these other countries would want it too.

    Only recently has these other countries realized they need to develop their own OS in order to kee their data secure.

  2. The letter I just sent to my two Senators and Congressmen…

    I am totally dumbfounded to have read an article on the BBC’s website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4715612.stm) profiling a gentleman named Gary McKinnon, who has been charged with hacking into dozens of U.S. Military computer systems from a foreign nation. He was able to successfully do his hacking because our military runs the Windows operating system and not a secure, Unix-based operating system such as Linux, Mac OS X, BSD, or Solaris. I dread to think what could have happened if he were in the employ of an enemy of our nation.

    Why is our military, where security is of the highest priority, using Windows? Why are my tax dollars being wasted on a computer OS with enough holes in it for an army of suicide bombers to walk through? Why is the military not standardized on secure a Unix variant?

  3. “He found many machines without adequate password or firewall protection.”

    Guess that kind of says it all. Its easy to break into a house when all the doors and windows are wide open.

    If you are going to run a network, regardless of OS, you should take the time to secure it properly. On my Linux box, if I don’t rename the root account something else and I make its password ‘123’, I’m gonna expect to be hacked into pretty easily.

  4. I read this after viewing with considerable disbelief a new Windows (at least here) sick making advert on TV spouting on about Microsofts belief in security. protecting their customers and their continuing ‘efforts’ to improve it even more in the future. I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the shear audacity of this FUD.

    I do urge anyone to complain about the untruths and misleading comments inherent in any such Microsoft advert to the relavent advertising authorities.

  5. I wrote this to my two Senators and Reepresentative (thanks for the quote TommyMC):

    I recently read a story on a blog about a gentleman named Gary McKinnon who had hacked into our military’s computer systems many times from overseas. When asked why, he stated “it’s because they run Windows”.

    I asked my neighbor Tommy, who works in IT for the Marine Corps, and he said: “Windows is the only thing we use. During one exercise last year, we got hit so hard with a virus that it crippled the entire operation for a few hours. Windows is used for all networks, from non-secure to top-secret. I personally carry a Mac Powerbook everywhere I go but am prohibited from using it on the network because of fears of insecurity (go figure). The US Military is 95% Windows and I have seen countless down time because of that. This story come as no surprise.”

    Why are we compromising our national security by running Windows? Due to their secure nature the Unix operating systems have never suffered from viruses. Why aren’t our Armed Forces using Unix? Why is one of our soldiers who owns a secure Unix-based laptop told that he is prohibited from using it on his network because of fears of insecurity”? Who is the idiot in charge of IT for our Armed Forces who made that dumb decision? Does an attacker have to be from Al Quaeda before this issue gets attention? How many of our soldiers will need to be killed before common sense prevails?

  6. -just more killing the messenger- “why wont any friggin business sue MS for all the money lost by Windows being poor.
    Im sure that virus and malware and BSOD has caused more damages to the worlds businesses than the $700,000 this guy caused.
    stop jailing the people who do drugs, and go after the drug dealers.”

    This is so dead-on its not funny, or ironic, just true. And the comments by USTommyMC… Wow!

    How we got here hardly matters any more, but more – much more diversification of computing platforms needs to start happening – now.

    How America and Americans continue to tolerate the lack of basic consumer choice in the area of personal computing continues to mullify, stupify, and terrify me.

    We really really do not understand that we’ve thrown ALL of our eggs into one basket, something that was never possible (at this level) before the advent of personal computing. We must not realize what we’ve done, because I don’t believe we’d be doing it if we did.

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