WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- A former senior U.S. information security official says there are nearly three-quarter million personal computers in the United States taken over by Chinese hackers.
"This is a fact that should get everyone's attention," Paul Strassmann told Government Executive magazine columnist Bob Brewin.
Strassman, who was director of defense information in the early 1990s, is now back at the Pentagon as a senior advisor, according to Brewin.
“As of the morning of Sept. 14, there were exactly (remember, Strassmann is an engineer and likes precision) 735,598 computers in the United States infested by Chinese zombies,” writes Brewin in his Monday column.
Zombies are malicious software packages downloaded by unsuspecting users from infected e-mail messages or Web sites.
They infect computers at a very basic level, making them hard to find and root out, and they enable the hackers who wrote them to create large networks of “slave” computers that can be used in massive, if unsophisticated, cyber attacks using a technique called Denial of Service, or DoS.
DoS attacks aim to overwhelm their target Web sites by flooding them with bogus requests for information from slave networks, also called botnets.
Strassmann described such botnets as "the cheapest attack weapon a nation can buy," but shied away from directly pointing the finger at the Chinese government, Brewin writes.
DoS attacks, like those carried out against the government of Estonia by Russian hacker gangs earlier this year are relatively unsophisticated, U.S. officials say, and major government and commercial networks in the country would be very hard to bring down that way.
"While no one is immune to cyber attacks," Mike Witt, deputy director of the U.S. Cyber Emergency Response Team told United Press International at the time, U.S. government networks were "more sophisticated, extensive and diverse," making them "less susceptible to disruptions or attacks."
Shaun Waterman, UPI Homeland and National Security Editor.