Post office breach: The new Cold War?

SAN FRANCISCO – The computer breach of the U.S. Postal Service, revealed Monday, could be part of the undeclared cold war in cyberspace, some experts say.

"Everyone realizes that the next true conflict that’s going to be fought is going to be launched not with an artillery barrage but a cyberbarrage," said Edward Ferrara, an analyst with Forrester, a technology research company.

Although the post office may not seem an important target, access to employee data, especially from higher-level employees, is useful for launching phishing attacks on other agencies, said Tal Klein, vice president of strategy at Adallom, a computer-security company.

“We call that ‘seed data,’ ” he said. “To get the best kind of seed data, you want to go after a target that’s trusted by a lot of other targets. If an executive sends out an e-mail, the likelihood is that more people will open it, compared to when someone in the mail room sends out e-mail.”

Whether or not China is behind the attack, Klein does note that the standard of what’s allowable seems to change depending on who’s doing it.

“I just think it’s amazing that when the NSA does it, it’s for national security. And when China does it, it’s espionage,” he said. “I’m not really sure I understand the difference.”

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