The US military has revealed one of its unclassified US military network was breached earlier this year by Russian hackers who had access to the network for hours before they were discovered.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said their systems detected the breach after the Russian hackers gained access to the network via an old vulnerability which was left unpatched. Carter used the incident to show the growing cyber threat and the need to improve the military's ability to respond.
The secretary warned that the United States is ready to help defend US networks and is willing to use cyber weaponry, saying that "adversaries should know that our preference for deterrence and our defensive posture don't diminish our willingness to use cyber options if necessary."
The hackers were quickly discovered within 24 hours by the systems guarding the network which alerted investigators. Carter said the hackers' network activity was then analyzed which pointed to Russia, before the hackers were kicked out "in a way that minimized their chances of returning."
Carter did not reveal what the hackers took or what they were after, but said the Russians "are stealthy in their cyber tradecraft and their intentions are sometimes difficult to discern."
Tech companies are being asked to work in cooperation with the US military, especially after the high profile attack on Sony which saw the company blackmailed after being hacked.
Carter said "as tech companies see every day, the cyber threat against U.S. interests is increasing in severity and sophistication," and that "while the North Korean cyberattack on Sony was the most destructive on a U.S. entity so far, this threat affects us all."
Carter also acknowledged that the revelations over digital surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden had damaged the relationship between tech companies and the US government, but said he is working to improve that relationship.