updated 7/14/2011 4:19:16 PM ET 2011-07-14T20:19:16


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is hoping to form a unified front in Washington to investigate cyberattacks against the U.S. government, namely those carried out by Anonymous and LulzSec.

In a letter sent yesterday (July 13) to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), McCain (R-AZ) called for the creation of a temporary Select Committee on Cyber Security and Electronic Intelligence Leaks in the U.S. Senate.

McCain's proposal would seek to develop legislation with "adequate safeguards to detect and defeat any insider threat of disclosure of classified documents such as we experienced with the WikiLeaks fiasco that endangered the security of many of our nation's diplomats and soldiers serving abroad."

It's the duty of the Senate, McCain wrote, to "provide congressional leadership on this pressing issue of national security."

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The WikiLeaks fiasco, and Anonymous' response — the hacking group targeted companies such as MasterCard and PayPal who refused to process pro-WikiLeaks payments — is perhaps the most widely known incident driving his proposal, but it's certainly not the only one.

In recent months, hackers have launched several attacks on the U.S. government and associated organizations. In January, a hacker hijacked more than a dozen top military, government and education websites, including the websites of the states of Utah and Michigan.

This was followed by a network intrusion at RSA, the maker of SecurID authentication tokens used by government agencies and an April "spear phishing" hack against the Department of Energy-run Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In May, cybercriminals penetrated the networks of Lockheed Martin, the largest provider of IT services to the U.S. government and military, and a week later, U.S. defense contractor L-3 Communications was also attacked.

Last month, the notorious and now-disbanded LulzSec hackers defaced the website of InfraGard, an Atlanta-based firm that provides IT security to the FBI. LulzSec also leaked 700 megabytes of emails and the personal information of 180 employees.

And just this past Monday (July 11), Anonymous struck again, leaking 90,000 emails belonging to Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that works with the U.S. goverment and military on defense and homeland security issues.

In his letter, McCain quoted former CIA chief and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to justify the immediate importance of tackling cybercrime issues.

"The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyberattack," McCain wrote.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn III today (July 14) unveiled the long-awaited Pentagon cybersecurity plan "Cyber 3.0." As Lynn said in February, the Pentagon now considers cyberspace a new "domain" of battle.

But in today's speech, Lynn emphasized that the U.S. would be preparing for electronic defense against attacks by other entities, rather than getting ready to make cyberoffensives of its own.

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