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USA: WASHINGTON: HACKERS BREAK INTO PENTAGON COMPUTERS

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Hackers have broken into the computer system at the heart of the U-S Defence Department.

John J. Hamre, U-S Deputy Secretary of Defence told reporters that systems handling unclassified material such as personnel and pay-rolls had been violated.

But he insisted that sensitive "classified" information had not fallen into the wrong hands.

The Deputy Defence Secretary told reporters on Wednesday that computer systems in the Pentagon, the U-S military headquarters, had been bugged.

John J. Hamre said that infiltration was noticed only recently.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
"Several weeks ago we noticed there was unusual activity - people trying to get access to our computer systems. We went on an alert status to watch that more carefully and saw that it was a concentrated effort. So it's been over the last couple of weeks - several weeks ago"
SUPER CAPTION: John J. Hamre, U-S Deputy Secretary of Defence

The deputy defence secretary said he was constrained from divulging too many details about the attacks.

He said the Pentagon was working with the Justice Department in pursuing potential criminal activity.

But he assured reporters that sensitive military information had not been compromised.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
"None of our classified systems have been penetrated. Some of our unclassified systems have been penetrated... none of our unclassified systems have been penetrated. Functioning for the systems continues and we do not see anomalous activity in those computers, but we do know they have been penetrated"
SUPER CAPTION: John J. Hamre, U-S Deputy Secretary of Defence

The official said the attacks did not appear to be connected with the ongoing crisis involving Iraq.

He said the attacks appear to be directed at unclassified information, such as personnel records or payroll matters.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
Q. Is it a concentrated effort? How would you describe this?"

A. I would characterise it as being systematic and modestly sophisticated"
SUPER CAPTION: John J. Hamre, U-S Deputy Secretary of Defence

Later, Hamre said the department has been attempting in recent years to update its defences against such attacks but that more had to be done.


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