Investigators have cracked a major spy ring in which West German "hackers" allegedly acquired sensitive military computer passwords and codes and sold them to the Soviets, an official said Thursday.
A West German television network said the passwords and other information came from key military and research computers in the United States, Western Europe and Japan.
Three West Germans have been detained on suspicion of "obtaining information about access to data banks and (passing) that on to Soviet intelligence agents," said Roland Bachmeier, spokesman for the federal Interior Ministry.
He refused to confirm other details of a report by the Norddeutsche Rundfunk broadcasting network.
The Pentagon issued a one-sentence statement Thursday: "Until possibly affected components of the Department of Defense have had a chance to analyze the report, we have no reaction."
One security source in West Germany said the "hackers" tried to break into a large U.S. military computer network in West Germany but failed to gain access to secret material.
Police in Hanover arrested two computer hackers on "suspicion of espionage activities for an Eastern European intelligence agency," said Alexander Prechtel, spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe. Another suspect was arrested in West Berlin, he said.
He said investigators still are trying to determine the extent of the damage.
Norddeutsche Rundfunk reported the hackers gained access to a key U.S. Defense Department computer and to important research computers elsewhere.
Among the computers was the U.S. Defense Department's general data bank known as Optimus, a NASA computer, as well as computers tied to nuclear weapons and energy research in New Mexico and Illinois, the network said.
"Thousands of computer codes, passwords and programs were delivered to the Soviets," the network said.