Russian hackers broke into unclassified networks at the Department of Defense (DOD) earlier this year, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter disclosed Thursday.
The department was able to quickly identify the perpetrators and kick them off the network in a way that minimized the intrusion, Carter said.
The previously unacknowledged hack illustrates the threat from Russian hackers against U.S. government agencies.
Russians are considered responsible for the cyberattacks on the State Department and the White House, both of which are still recovering from the hacks.
Carter mentioned the hack of DOD’s networks during a speech at Stanford University, where he called for stronger ties between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley.
“We’ve had tensions before and we will likely have them again,” Carter said. “But those who work in the tech community are no strangers to intense grappling with ideas, and the same is true for those of us who work in the Pentagon.”
Members of the Obama administration have been spending considerable time in Silicon Valley in an effort to repair relationships following disclosures about NSA surveillance.
Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told an audience in San Francisco that he plans to open as satellite DHS office in the area to serve as a talent recruitment center, among other uses.
Carter announced similar plans on Thursday at Stanford.
A new DOD office will be “staffed by some of our best active-duty and military personnel, plus key people from the reserves who live here,” he said.
“They will help scout for new technologies and function as a local interface for the department. They will also help startups find new work to do with DOD.”
Washington’s courtship of the technology community can be partially explained by the rising threat from hackers around the world.
The government needs to recruit top talent from the private sector in order to improve its cybersecurity, but that task is difficult given the relatively lower pay and fewer perks involved in public service.
Carter, calling cybersecurity one of the world’s “most complex challenges,” urged Stanford students to think of military service as an exciting opportunity.
“The mission is compelling, but we have to make the environment less dreary,” he said, noting that younger workers do not want to be “tied down” in one workplace for their whole careers.
“We have to make ourselves an exciting and flexible and compelling place to work,” he said.
This story was updated at 3:46 p.m.