In a bit of unfortunate timing, the C.I.A.'s website was
for a couple of hours yesterday evening in an apparent cyber attack. It was
only a week ago that Leon Panetta, the C.I.A.'s outgoing director, warned
senators that cyber warfare could be the next big battleground for the United States.
"The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a
cyber attack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems,
our financial systems, our governmental systems," he told
the Senate Armed Services Committee
during his confirmation hearing to replace Bob Gates as secretary of defense.
Yesterday's attack on the C.I.A. was in the form of a denial
of service, meaning the hackers flooded the site with requests for access,
effectively shutting down the server. While it certainly doesn't rise to the
level of causing crippling damage, it
is an embarrassment for the agency and highlights just how vulnerable our cyber
The hacker group claiming responsibility for the attack
calls itself LulzSec and describes itself as "the world's leaders in
high-quality entertainment at your expense." They claimed credit via twitter
yesterday with the message: "Tango down - cia.gov-for the lulz."
The group has also claimed responsibility for a string of
other high profile attacks in recent weeks on the U.S. Senate, Sony, and PBS.
A U.S. official said it was important to keep in mind the
site wasn't technically "hacked" since the attackers weren't able to get into the
system, but acknowledged the two-hour episode was "annoying."
"These kind of issues can affect any website," the official said.
"In this case it was resolved quickly."