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Pentagon reopens sites

The U.S. military reopens its Web sites after removing Internet graffiti left by a hacker.

The U.S. military reopened its Web sites yesterday evening after removing Internet graffiti left by a hacker during the weekend, the third such incident in five months involving federal government sites.

The military's sites contain only public information, such as military job listings, and no classified information. But the military was still sufficiently unnerved to temporarily shut off access to more than 80 related military sites after the tampering was detected, said Major Ron Lovas, an Air Force spokesman.

The Air Force was the first to discover that someone had hacked into the site.

The Air Force home page was up by Monday afternoon and all of the sites were back up by late last evening.

Hackers broke into the Air Force site, hosted by Defense Technical Information Center sometime during the weekend and altered it with animated graphics, including dripping blood and a pornographic scene.

Officials immediately took down all sites hosted by the Information Center, which include those for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the Gulf War illness page, to make sure they had not been tampered with, Lovas said. The hacked site, captured and mirrored, was headlined, "Welcome to the Truth."

"You can learn all about gov't corruption here," it states. "Learn the secrets that they don't know want you to know. Well not really, I don't have time for that."

If the Air Force was red-faced about the break-in, it at least had plenty of company. In September, hackers brought down the Central Intelligence Agency's Web site, a month after they tampered with the Justice Department's online residence.

Breaking into government computers violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 "and can result in administrative, disciplinary or criminal proceedings," states a warning on the Defense Technical Information homepage.

However, to enforce the law, the government must first catch the vandals. Federal authorities were investigating the incident, Lovas said.

"We take all attempts by computer vandals very seriously," Captain Terry Bowman, chief of the Air Force public affairs technology integration team, said in a statement. "We continually review our security procedures to maintain the integrity of the information on our site. It's unfortunate that someone wants to do such a great disservice to the public by disrupting the flow of information to everyone."