Intel on Tuesday acknowledged that it, too, was the victim of a "sophisticated" cyber attack in January, right around the time Google, Adobe Systems, and more than two dozen other U.S.-based companies were infiltrated by hackers using a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser as part of what has become known as "Operation Aurora."

In its annual report filed with Securities and Exchange Commission, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) said that "one recent and sophisticated [cyber attack] incident occurred in January 2010 around the same time as the recently publicized security incident reported by Google."

Intel officials said the January attack didn't result in the loss of any intellectual property or damage to its network and wasn't as "broad-based" as the attack described by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE), and others.


"These attempts, which might be the result of industrial or other espionage, or actions by hackers seeking to harm the company, its products, or end users, are sometimes successful," the company said in its 10-K filing. "We seek to detect and investigate these security incidents and to prevent their recurrence, but in some cases we might be unaware of an incident or its magnitude and effects."

Network security is national security

Intel and other publicly-traded companies have incorporated this boilerplate warning in all their SEC filings lately in response to escalating cyber terrorism and sophisticated hacking attacks from China, Eastern Europe, and from within the United States.

Intel's admission came on the same day that Michael McConnell, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and former director of national intelligence, warned the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that the U.S. would surely lose a cyber war if it were fought today and that cyber crime poses the single largest threat to national security today.

"We're the most vulnerable, we're the most connected, we have the most to lose," McConnell said. "We will not mitigate this risk. And as a consequence of not mitigating this risk, we are going to have a catastrophic event."

McConnell's dire prediction echoes the sentiments of security software leaders such as McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt who has repeatedly warned that cyber terrorists are becoming more sophisticated, organized and brazen despite increased awareness.

"We're constantly under attack," DeWalt said in October during his company's FOCUS09 conference. "The bad guys are getting organized. This is not the hacker in your basement. We're talking about organized crime, organized terrorism, and organized warfare."

On Tuesday, security software vendor Symantec released a report that found that 75 percent of the 2,100 companies and government agencies surveyed were hit by a cyber attack in 2009 and that on average they spent more than $2 million to combat cyber attacks.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.