WASHINGTON – Fake cyberattackers and hackers largely foiled government and industry attempts to fight back quickly and effectively during a test of computer security systems, the government said Wednesday.
Yet the Homeland Security Department claimed victory in the four-day, $3 million war game in February. It was the government's biggest exercise in responding to Internet attacks.
The department's report noted gaps in response communications and sluggish public assurances during the test. The report concluded that responders were widely unable to determine whether the series of simulated hackings, which could have halted subways and triggered power outages, were isolated or part of a coordinated assault.
"Most incidents were treated as individual and discrete events," the report found.
The report did say that "by and large, the participating organizations and their practices met the challenges presented." It also said "the cybercommunity must continue to improve its ability to effectively respond to and recover from the most sophisticated of cyberattacks."
The department's undersecretary, George W. Foresman, said the test succeeded because it revealed security gaps that such exercises are "designed to strengthen."
"I want to get us to the point where we can measure America's cybersecurity preparedness," Foresman said. "We're not there yet."
There was no impact on the real Internet during the exercise, which involved more than 300 people from the government, three states, five nations, nine technology companies and six public utilities.
An internal agency document shows the simulated attacks bombed or otherwise infiltrated computer servers, crashing the Federal Aviation Administration's control system, defacing newspaper Web sites and threatening power outages.
The fake perpetrators, according to the internal document, included activist groups, disgruntled employees-turned-hackers and bloggers.