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Cisco code theft part of larger plot

Last year's theft of routing code from Cisco Systems was part of a larger plot involving several of the nation's supercomputers, U.S. universities, research laboratories, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. military, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The break-in at Cisco was discovered last May when security specialists from the supercomputer laboratories investigating the break-in there noticed that Cisco's network was being compromised, said the NY Times article. Even though Cisco officials were notified right away, it was too late. The software code for Cisco's routers had already been stolen.

Shortly after the break-in, about 800 megabytes of Cisco's Internetwork Operating System (IOS) source code was posted to a Russian Web site. Cisco IOS is the crown jewel of the networking giant's product portfolio. It's used in all of Cisco's routing products.

Some experts have speculated that sophisticated hackers could use the stolen code to compromise routers of Cisco's customers, which include large service providers that essentially run the Internet, as well as some of the largest companies in the world.

So far, there's no evidence that the information has been used for any such attacks, Cisco told the NY Times.

Federal and European officials are focusing their investigation on a teenager in Sweden, who is believed to have something to do with the attacks, the NY Times said. Back in September, British police arrested a 20-year-old man in Northern England in connection with the theft, but he was never charged with a crime.