Defense planning to improve website security, just as Syrian hackers hit Marine Corps site

Government (U.S.) // United States

The Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-regime hacktivist group, apparently redirected visitors to a webpage with a message urging service members not to strike Syria.

This domain name system hack and a similar one that brought down the New York Times website Aug. 27 are not new types of threats, according to security researchers. Nor is the Pentagon’s effort to strengthen the system that points visitors to valid military sites new. But concerns are growing amid high-profile DNS hijackings by the group and new FBI warnings about cyberattacks ahead of a possible military strike against Syria. 

"Potential risks to the Department of Defense DNS infrastructure such as hackers, phishing scams or distributed denial of service attacks meant to covertly extract data require [Defense] to develop plans to improve monitoring and management of the DoD DNS, and protect it from any external vulnerabilities," states an Aug. 22 notice to contractors issued by the Defense Information Systems Agency seeking engineering support to harden the domain name system.

The DNS essentially translates alphanumeric web addresses into network location codes.

DISA has reached out to contractors holding Secret clearances that might be interested in reinforcing the DNS for all combatant commands, services and military agencies. Companies have until 9/6 to inform agency officials of their qualifications for the potential contract.

In a statement on Monday, Marine Corps officials confirmed that visitors had been directed away from the authentic website and said the real one now functions properly, according to the Wall Street Journal. No data from the site was compromised, officials said.

The fake site displayed a letter signed by the “SEA” that read, in part, “Obama is a traitor who wants to put your lives in danger to rescue al- Qaida insurgents . . . Refuse your orders and concentrate on the real reason every soldier joins their military, to defend their homeland. You're more than welcome to fight alongside our army rather than against it.”

ThreatWatch is a regularly updated catalog of data breaches successfully striking every sector of the globe, as reported by journalists, researchers and the victims themselves.