Hacking a threat to US security

During the five-month period between October and February, there were 86 reported attacks on computer systems in the United States that control critical infrastructure, factories and databases, according to the Department of Homeland Security, compared with 11 over the same period a year ago. None of the attacks caused significant damage, but they were part of a spike in hacking attacks on networks and computers of all kinds over the same period. The department recorded more than 50,000 incidents since October, about 10,000 more than in the same period a year earlier, with an incident defined as any intrusion or attempted intrusion on a computer network.  The increase has prompted a new interest in cybersecurity on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are being prodded by the Obama administration to advance legislation that could require new standards at facilities where a breach could cause significant casualties or economic damage. It is not clear whether the higher numbers were due to increased reporting amid a wave of high-profile hacking, including the arrest last week of several members of the group Anonymous, or an actual increase in attacks. James A. Lewis, a senior fellow and a specialist in computer security issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy group in Washington, said that as hacking awareness had increased, attacks had become more common. He said that the attacks on the nation’s infrastructure were particularly jarring.

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