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CNN Today

Internet Attacks: Third Day of Cyberterrorism has Business, Justice Department Worried About Online Security

Aired February 9, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: For the third day in a row, Internet commerce has been severely disrupted by massive attacks against popular Web sites. The problem is so serious that the White House has taken notice, and the FBI is planning a briefing sometime this hour.

Steve Young of the CNN Financial unit is in New York with us now covering this story.

Steve, what's the latest?

STEVE YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we had some commerce sites hit yesterday. Today, it seems to be shifting to online trading. The latest victim apparently was Daytek, the fourth-largest online trading company. It says that it was not -- or, it's not sure if it was a result of hacking but that it lost 90 percent of the capacity and one of the companies that hooks its up -- hooks it up to the Internet and its customers, but there was no question earlier in the day when E- Trade went down. It's one of the biggest players in online trading. And for about an hour at least, perhaps longer -- we're still waiting to clarify that -- E-Trade was unreachable by many, if not most, of its customers. As you can see from this live look at the Internet it's up and running now. Also, ZDNet, sort of a communications media company which focuses on technology, also was down, according to ZDNet, for about two hours.

The technique that's being used by these hackers is something we first saw several weeks ago in Seattle in an attack against the World Trade Organization, and security experts tell us its not that unusual.


TED JULIAN, INTERNET SECURITY EXPERT, @STAKE: Pretty common. We've seen a fair amount of it, and we're sure to see more in the course of time. What was different about this one is the distributed nature, where the attacks were coming from a lot of different locations.

IRA WINKLER, INTERNET SECURITY ADVISORS GROUP: They have to hack into another computer on the Internet, any random computer, put a little piece of software onto that computer, and then once they're there, after all these tens of thousands of systems are in place, then they can go ahead and launch the attacks from anywhere.


YOUNG: What Ira Winkler was talking about there is a program which is apparently available many places on the Internet, and what we understand is happening is that these hackers, individuals or lots of groups, it's unclear, are actually getting hold of hundreds to thousands of computers in the unwitting hands of just ordinary folks like you, me and others out there, planting this software on the PCs and then, with almost a sort of a remote-control button on a TV clicker, commanding them to stage the attack. It's very hard to follow. They can make it look like it's coming from many different directions.

This attack is really day number three. This began Monday with an attack against one of the biggest names on the Internet, Yahoo!. Also, you can see, it affected eBay yesterday and the very day of its initial public offering. was hit also last night and down for about one hour. And was affected as well.

I should tell you, Lou, that we're all going to learn about a new acronym in the next half hour: NIPC. NIPC is part of the FBI. It's the National Infrastructure Protection Center, and we'll be hearing from the FBI in about 30 minutes from Washington.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: Steve, are we getting any indication from these companies of any loss of business, a dollar amount?

YOUNG: Yesterday, most of them were minimizing the loss. In fact, some of the analysts were telling us that it, for many of these companies, is just a rounding error. But what the security people are really worried about, Lou, is if this shifts from what's happen now, business-to-consumer to business-to-business, a much bigger universe, then the losses could be much greater.

WATERS: Steve Young in New York.

Donna, what's next?

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as we did mention, the FBI is scheduled to hold a briefing in about 30 minutes on Internet hacking. And for that part of the story we want to go to CNN's Justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas. He is at FBI headquarters in Washington.

Pierre, do you have a heads up on what we're going to hear in the news conference shortly?

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Donna, one of the main things we will hear is that the FBI is taking this extraordinarily seriously. The attorney general herself, Janet Reno, is expected to be here. One of the messages that they want to try to send out today is that this is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Also, they will make clear that the National Infrastructure Protection Center, which is a special unit housed within the FBI, will be doing a serious investigation of this matter. So, they want to send a message loud and clear to whoever is doing this that this will be investigated.

KELLEY: Well, they put forth some of the penalties that people can be forced to have if they're caught. How are they going to stop this and how are they tracing it, do you know?

PIERRE: Well, one of the things that they will try to do is look for, if you will, an investigative blueprint, look for an electronic trail. As Steve just pointed out a few minutes ago, because this is coming from so many different directions, that's going to be a very daunting task. One source told me this morning it may be extraordinarily difficult to find out where exactly this originated from.

KELLEY: Did they tell you too, Pierre, whether or not they have enough people and enough money at this point to try and stay ahead of hackers?

PIERRE: Well, one of the things that this new unit, the National Infrastructure Protection Center, was only set up in 1998, and they -- they have a roughly-$100-million budget, we're told. In the coming budget they're asking for 37 million additional dollars because they see this as a growing threat. Just to give you an idea of how massive this problem is becoming, in October the FBI had roughly 800 pending cyber cases. So, this is a very serious and growing problem.

KELLEY: If they trace it to international sources, that the hackers are coming from international sources, how much power does the FBI have over that?

PIERRE: Well, one of the key issues in terms of cyber crime has long been that someone can sit at a computer thousands of miles away and do damage. And the question has long been also, how do you arrest these people if it indeed turns out that someone is overseas. So, that is a very significant, unanswered question.

KELLEY: Are they worried about more hackers and more kind of underground goings on here and really starting up a culture?

PIERRE: Well, one of the things that they're concerned about is, in addition to whatever groups might be doing this, the copycat syndrome, that people would see that this is -- this disruption is going on, these are major Internet Web sites that are being disrupted, and that other people who want to wreak havoc, if you will, who want to do cyberterrorism, if you will, would join in. So, that is a major concern.

KELLEY: Do you think they'll have to ask for more money and more people to keep up?

PIERRE: Again, they asking for an additional $37 million this year to keep pace with this problem. And again, another issue here is changing technology. One of the things that they're seeing is that the hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, essentially developing software that allows them to erase the trail.

KELLEY: Our justice correspondent Pierre Thomas, thanks very much.


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