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Cyber-attacks batter Web heavyweights


Strikes on eBay, Amazon, follow Monday Yahoo! attack

February 9, 2000
Web posted at: 9:56 a.m. EST (1456 GMT)

In this story:

FBI expected to investigate strikes

Tactic 'difficult to address'


ATLANTA (CNN) -- A series of cyber-attacks Tuesday left some of the Web's most high-profile sites staggering under the weight of tens of thousands of bogus messages.

VideoInterview with CNN Technology Correspondent Ann Kellan about how the attacks hardly affect home computers.
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VideoCNN's Catherine Callaway explains the Internet invasion.
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VideoCNNfn correspondent Fred Katayama reports on the attacks on Yahoo! and
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Background: Denial of Service Attacks

A denial of service attack is a merciless stream of information sent to a target with the intention of flooding it until it crashes or can no longer take legitimate traffic. Unlike most other "hacks," it does not involve the attacker gaining access or entry into the targeted server. The information frequently is sent in the form of "pings" -- small packets of data used as a signal between computers. If the pinger lies about its real address, the target computer can't return the ping to make the connection. In that case, the target waits and finally gives up. In great amounts, this can overwhelm a server.

More on denial of service hackers

The targets included retail giant, electronic auction house eBay, discount retailer and CNN Interactive.

The "denial of service attack," where hackers jam a Web site with useless messages that tie up the site's computers, slowed the news site's operations for nearly two hours, spokeswoman Edna Johnson said.

"We were seriously affected. We were serving content, but it was very inconsistent and very little," Johnson said in a written statement. "By 8:45 p.m., our upstream providers had put blocks in place that are shielding us, and we are now serving content."

FBI expected to investigate strikes

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which followed a similar strike on the portal Yahoo! on Monday. The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center is expected to investigate the attacks to try to determine their origin, a senior law enforcement official told CNN late Tuesday.

The tactic used is similar to phone lines being tied up by too many calls, allowing no callers through. At, the premier e-commerce site, spokesman Bill Curry said their site was hit between 8 and 9 p.m. EST.

"Users who tried to log on to experienced slower load time for Web pages, but Amazon was still able to process orders," he said. "A large amount of junk traffic was directed to our site, resulting in degraded service for an hour." -- which had its initial public offering earlier Tuesday -- was down for about three hours. While the site experienced increased traffic as a result of the IPO, a company spokesman said it was not the cause of the Web site's crash -- hackers were.

At the hacked eBay, officials said a preliminary investigation shows that users were unable to view certain pages, like those describing items for auction.

Tactic 'difficult to address'

The attacks sent ripples through the Web world.

"This happens by some malicious people writing a computer program that send too, too many requests to a Web site," said Gene Shklar, with Keynote Systems, which measures Web site performance.

The attack on CNN Interactive marked the first major hack on the site since it launched in August 1995. Both CNN and CNN Interactive are owned by Time Warner Inc.

"What better Web site to attack than the Web site of the TV network that's doing news about this very occurrence?" Shklar said.

Richard Power, an official of the Computer Security Institute, said tools have been in place "for a while" for hackers to orchestrate such attacks.

"There have been attacks before, but these are the first highly publicized ones," he said. "Denial of service is one of the most difficult challenges in terms of securing the Internet that we face, actually, and it will be one of the most difficult things to address."

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Feds leave doors open for hackers
December 22, 1999
Hackers attack Senate Web site again
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Feds warn hackers will be prosecuted; pro-Mitnick protest planned
June 2, 1999
Infamous computer hacker pleads guilty in deal with government
March 26, 1999
Legendary hacker signs plea bargain to win freedom in one year
March 18, 1999

RELATED SITES: - The Internet Superstore
Federal Bureau of Investigation
National Infrastructure Protection Cente: CyberNotes

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