Information Warfare: April 11, 2003

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While the war in Iraq held everyone's attention, American cyberwarriors are growing increasingly nervous about increasingly ominous threats on the Internet front. There are increasingly better methods to keep an eye on the activities of hackers (mainly by using "Honeypots," servers set up to attract hackers and monitor their activities.) A growing threat being detected is hackers storing their own communications programs (called "zombies" or "bots") on hacked computers. In the last month, bot networks of up to 140,000 hacked PCs have been discovered. Another hacker was observed automatically hacking 18,000 servers and home PCs and installing bots, all in 24 hours. A hacker could order all those bots to launch an enormous distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack on a web site and shut it down by overloading it with messages. Many major commercial sites (like Yahoo or Ebay) are equipped with expensive defensive software to defeat most DDOS attacks, but there are many government and military servers that are not as well defended. Without defenses, the site attacked would be out of action for hours, or more than a day. Apparently no pro-Saddam hackers, controlling armies of zombies, were out there, because there were no massive DDOS attacks on U.S. military web sites. But the vulnerability remains. Note (and a plug), this zombie situation is covered in detail in "The Next War Zone" by James F Dunnigan.

 


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