WEEKLY WEB WATCH: Possibility of a global war looms

Subject: Yahoo!

Subject: Yahoo!

Issue: cyber-terrorism

At: www.yahoo.com

On Monday 7 February the world’s biggest web site, Yahoo, was closed

down in the US for several hours, resulting in major on-line chaos.

The reason for this was because the company’s main computer network,

based in California, had been bombarded by millions of spurious requests

for information, which clogged up the system and prevented serious users

from accessing the site. It was the equivalent of a telephone hotline

receiving a constant stream of bogus calls.

At the peak of the ’denial of service’ attack the site was receiving up

to a gigabyte of data every second from the perpetrators - more than

most e-commerce sites get in a year.

It took Yahoo nearly three hours to remedy the problem - a significant

period of downtime for a service which normally delivers up to 465

million web pages a day.

Yahoo was forced to implement software filters to block the fake

requests for information and redirected its services to computers at

another location.

Other dot.com companies were also targeted by the hackers in the wake of

their Yahoo ’success’. Buy.com, eBay, E*Trade, and Amazon all went down

within days of Yahoo. CNN’s live newswire was in the process of

reporting on this rising phenomenon when it, too, fell victim to an


As yet only companies based in the US have been targeted however,

bearing in mind the global nature of the web, the implications for

e-business are enormous, as the incidents represent the most serious

breach of security in the internet’s history.

Although no clear motives have been identified, the hackers have proved

that nobody is safe. The on-line world has been forced into recognising

that if an internet titan such as Yahoo can be held to ransom, then

anyone is vulnerable. One result is that consumer confidence in the

burgeoning sector may be seriously undermined, with users feeling less

comfortable about disclosing personal details and credit card numbers

on-line. Share prices of internet firms took a dive after the attacks

while shares of internet security companies ISS, Axent and Sonic Wall


There is varying speculation about who carried out the attacks. Some

sources believe it involved a number of cyber-terrorists orchestrating

an attack from a multitude of locations, while others think it could be

the efforts of an individual.

Yahoo’s response to the issue was prompt. The day after they were

stormed the company announced that it was meeting with the FBI to

discuss tracking down the hackers. It also published news and analysis

pieces on the site - including the US government’s plans to convene a

meeting to respond to the phenomenon.

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