US Navy Accused Of
Computer Hacking
by Kristi Essick
IDG News Service
The U.S. Navy has allegedly attempted to break into secure areas of a Web site sponsored by a U.K. marine-mammal preservation charity, according to officials at the organization.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society--which operates an online shopping site that generates money for the welfare of the animals--said it was alerted to the attempted break-in last week by its site-hosting company, Merchant Technology.
"We were working late one night, and a command line request came in wanting to access unauthorized areas of the site," said Andy Fisher, marketing manager for Merchant. "We were amazed to find out it was the Pentagon."
Merchant built and manages the secure site for the conservation society and routinely keeps an eye on visitors. If users attempt to gain access to unauthorized areas, the company is alerted to the source of the incoming request.
At 9:45 p.m. GMT on April 28, Fisher said, workers at Merchant were shocked to see an incoming attempt to breach security by a user identified as
Merchant got in touch with WDCS immediately and was informed that the Navy had contacted the charity a few weeks earlier. The Navy was interested in obtaining a report the group is working on that details the efforts of Russian animal experts to train dolphins in the Black Sea for military tasks, such as finding and attaching probes to submarines, Fisher said.
A WDCS spokesperson said that there is nothing secret about the Russian government's activities in this area, but that the document does contain information about the export of the trained dolphins to foreign countries. The group declined to give the Navy a copy of the report only because it was not complete at the time, she said. Once it is made final, the report will be published and the Navy can then examine it, she said.
The WDCS said that it is confused about why the Navy would attempt to break into its Web site.
"I would think whoever it was within the U.S. Navy would have better things to do rather than try and hack into our computers," Chris Stroud, the organization's director of campaigns, said in the statement. "If they were seeking reports on the Black Sea, we shall be freely publishing these in the near future anyway."
The WDCS previously has commented unfavorably on Navy activities, such as its low-frequency sonar trials off Hawaii and on ship collisions with endangered whales, the group said.
Merchant says it is "100-percent sure" the hacking attempt originated from the Navy. WDCS has notified the U.S. Embassy in London and the relevant U.K. authorities, the organization said.
"We hope that the U.S. authorities have some rational explanation for this incident," Stroud said.
"The Navy has not yet received a formal complaint on the issue," said a Navy official, who declined to be named. "Until the Navy receives a formal complaint with details, there's not much we can do to proceed further."

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