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Computers components and other electronics imports may increasingly contain malicious software, according to a Congressional cyber-security expert, adding to the growing list of cyber-security threats affecting the U.S. government.

Hackers may be able to inject bad code into components imported from overseas plants, planting tools to help them launch cyber attacks on the U.S., according to Representative Jim Langevin (D., R.I.).

"Corrupting hardware and software is embedded in the supply chain," Langevin said. "We have a real challenge on our hands to better secure the supply chain."

Langevin, which sits on the U.S. House of Representatives committees on Armed Services and Intelligence, is aware of cyber-threats the government has not publicly disclosed.

The Congressman alluded to a different threat in an emerging new front for national security -- one where systems are as vulnerable from the inside as websites are by hackers from the outside.

His warning comes as national security breaches escalate, as hackers increasingly focus on political and government targets such as the CIA, national defense contractor Lockheed Martin and FBI contractors Booz Allen Hamilton and IRC Federal.

In addition hackers hit government labs and state police forces in Florida andArizona.

Langevin spoke at the launch of a cyber-security initiative, called the "Rhode Island Cyber Disruption Team." Doug White, a cyber-security expert and professor at Roger Williams University, joined the Congressman and touched on the increasing possibility of tainted electronic components as a real security threat.

"It's not something that a lot of people have thought about in the past. They should have thought about it," White said. "What if you went on a battlefield and hit a button and everything stopped working? It's pretty scary stuff."

White's words may seem strong, but the possibilities are being taken seriously, as governments ramp up cyber-security efforts at both the state and federal level. The Pentagon is bolstering national cyber-security efforts by building an internal security network for the government and its contractors, while the U.S. militaryirons out cyber-war protocols that would legally allow physical force as a response to foreign government-sponsored hack attacks.

The Obama administration recently toughened penalties on hackers, and the Department of Commerce increasingly urged private businesses to protect themselves against security breaches as well.

Langevin is also shepherding the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act of 2011, a closely watched cyber-security bill in Congress that would provide government assistance to utilities and other companies that manage U.S. infrastructure.

On the state level, Langevin's own Cyber Disruption Team in Rhode Island joins law enforcement, emergency response teams, academics and private businesses in an effort to boost security and tackle cyber-attacks.

By pooling resources and addressing the problem from both inside and outside the government, the partnership may be a model for other states to follow, not to mention governments under attack from hackers who increasingly recognize no borders when it comes to marking targets.

The growing complexity of cyber-breaches demands an equally sophisticated response as hackers prove ingenious at eluding capture and penetrating vulnerable computer systems.

Source: Mobiledia

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