WEEKLY WEB WATCH: Web attacks disable leading sites, enable others to prosper

Oh, the sweet irony of it. The most likely reason for the widely publicized attacks on several of the biggest sites on the Internet over the past week, apart from extortion, was to undermine investor confidence in publicly traded Internet companies. Perhaps it was to undermine confidence in the Internet itself as a vehicle for business.

Oh, the sweet irony of it. The most likely reason for the widely publicized attacks on several of the biggest sites on the Internet over the past week, apart from extortion, was to undermine investor confidence in publicly traded Internet companies. Perhaps it was to undermine confidence in the Internet itself as a vehicle for business.

Oh, the sweet irony of it. The most likely reason for the widely

publicized attacks on several of the biggest sites on the Internet over

the past week, apart from extortion, was to undermine investor

confidence in publicly traded Internet companies. Perhaps it was to

undermine confidence in the Internet itself as a vehicle for

business.



Yahoo!, the first target, was inaccessible to users for several

hours.



Subsequent attacks were mounted against eBay, Buy.com, ZDNet, CNN and

E-Trade, among others. If the intention was to send stock prices

spiraling, then it failed miserably. Shares in most of the targeted

companies actually went up. Yahoo!’s was up 4.5% the next day. And

Buy.com, whose IPO happened to be on the day of the attack, did just

fine, with shares nearly doubling from the asking price.



The attacks will certainly have far-reaching consequences, but probably

not in the way the attacker(s) intended. They couldn’t have done better

PR for anybody whose business is Internet security products or

services.



There was no mistaking which way shares in those companies were going,

especially since the attacks followed several weeks of reports of credit

card security breaches. Security companies didn’t really need to do

anything, just be there. Not that it stopped many of them from putting

out some of the most transparently opportunistic press releases ever

conceived, with phrases like ’online terrorism’ and ’Internet house of

cards’ being bandied about.



My favorite came from Dr. Aharon Friedman of Tampa-based Fortress

Technologies, who wheeled out the latest development on the age-old ’Oh

my gosh, kids can find bomb- making recipes on the Internet and now

they’re all going to go and make explosions’ scare mongering line. To

quote him exactly: ’A 12- or 14-year-old with minimal computer skills

can visit any of the 30,000 hacking Web sites and download quite

sophisticated hacking programs and instructions for conducting these

attacks.’ And then with an astonishing leap of logic, he proceeds to

conclude that it was actually kids who shut down Yahoo! and all the

rest.



Other security experts are taking the ’sinister plot’ line, pointing out

that whoever was behind the attacks was sophisticated enough to evade

detection by hopping between different host computers and also managing

to erase any electronic footprints that might identify them.



This, of course, is stuff made in heaven for any government agencies

with even a vague interest in the Internet. According to Wired News

(www.wirednews.com), everyone from the FBI to the Critical

Infrastructure Assurance Office (www.ciao.gov) and FedCIRC (Federal

Computer Incident Response Capability, www.fedcirc.gov) is running to

Capitol Hill to ask for more money power.



The other people who are rubbing their hands in glee are the

lawyers.



Expect to see owners of some of the computers that were used by the

hacker(s) to inadvertently host the attacks to be sued for allowing

intrusions to their systems. Given that large retail sites can

potentially lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each hour that they

are down, the numbers involved will not be trivial.



Yep, it was certainly a good week for some people.





- Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution, scheduled to launch in

March. He can be contacted at stovin.hayter@revolutionmagazine.com.



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