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US Army website hacked as Obama vows to boost cyber defences

US president Barack Obama vows to boost US cyber defences as a group calling itself 'the Syrian Electronic Army' hacks the US Army's website

The US Army took down its official website temporarily after it was hacked and defaced by the "Syrian Electronic Army" hacktivist group. The group supports Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The website hack came as US president Barack Obama vowed to boost US cyber defences in a news conference at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Germany.

He was speaking just days after hackers broke into the computer network of the US government agency that stores personal information on all federal employees for a second time in a year.

The US Army said the hackers compromised an element of the service provider’s content.

“After this came to our attention, the army took appropriate preventive measures to ensure there was no breach of army data by taking down the website temporarily,” said the head of public affairs, brigadier general Malcolm Frost.

Litany of cyber attacks on US

The hack comes just five months after another hacktivist group, claiming to back Islamic State, hacked the US Central Command's Twitter and YouTube accounts.

In April 2015, Obama signed an executive order establishing a framework for the US to impose sanctions on foreign cyber attackers, saying that cyber threats were “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges” facing the US.

The breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), announced last week, is believed to have taken place in December 2014, exposing the personnel records of up to four million current and former federal employees.

The intrusion has been attributed to Chinese hackers. US officials – speaking on condition of anonymity – said the hackers were state-sponsored; and private security firm iSight Partners said it had linked the intrusion to the same Chinese espionage group that hacked health insurance firm Anthem.

Last week, the US said Chinese hackers had attacked federal government computers and may have compromised the records of four million employees. China has denied the allegations.

In Germany, Obama declined to say whether he believed China was behind the OPM cyber attack, but said the US has old computer systems with "significant vulnerabilities" and needed to be "much more aggressive" in stepping up defences, reported Reuters.

"In some cases, it's non-state actors who are engaging in criminal activity and potential theft," he said. "In the case of state actors, they're probing for intelligence or, in some cases, trying to bring down systems in pursuit of their various foreign policy objectives."

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