‘cyber storm’ targeted bloggers & journalists

'cyber storm' targeted bloggers & journalistsfrom ap: It’s the government’s idea of a really bad day: Washington’s Metro trains shut down. Seaport computers in New York go dark. Bloggers reveal locations of railcars with hazardous materials. Airport control towers are disrupted in Philadelphia and Chicago. Overseas, a mysterious liquid is found on London’s subway. And that’s just for starters.

Those incidents were among dozens of detailed, mock disasters confronting officials rapid-fire in the U.S. government’s biggest-ever “Cyber Storm” war game, according to hundreds of pages of heavily censored files obtained by The Associated Press. The Homeland Security Department ran the exercise to test the nation’s hacker defenses, with help from the State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department, CIA, National Security Agency and others…

Imagined villains include hackers, bloggers and even reporters. After mock electronic attacks overwhelmed computers at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an unspecified “major news network” airing reports about the attackers refused to reveal its sources to the government. Other simulated reporters were duped into spreading “believable but misleading” information that worsened fallout by confusing the public and financial markets, according to the government’s files.

The $3 million, invitation-only war game simulated what the U.S. described as plausible attacks over five days in February 2006 against the technology industry, transportation lines and energy utilities by anti-globalization hackers. The government is organizing another multimillion-dollar war game, Cyber Storm 2, to take place in early March

The AP obtained the Cyber Storm internal records nearly two years after it requested them under the Freedom of Information Act. The government censored most of the 328 pages it turned over, marked “For Official Use Only,” National Cyber Exercise: Cyber Storm (2.32mb PDF) citing rules preventing the disclosure of sensitive information.

“Definitely a challenging scenario,” said Scott C. Algeier, who runs a cyber-defense group for leading technology companies, the Information Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Center

However, the government’s files hint at a tantalizing mystery: In the middle of the war game, someone quietly attacked the very computers used to conduct the exercise. Perplexed organizers traced the incident to overzealous players and sent everyone an urgent e-mail marked “IMPORTANT!” reminding them not to probe or attack the game computers.

“Any time you get a group of [information technology] experts together, there’s always a desire, ‘Let’s show them what we can do,'” said George Foresman, a former senior Homeland Security official who oversaw Cyber Storm. “Whether its intent was embarrassment or a prank, we had to temper the enthusiasm of the players.”

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