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
Yahoo!, the first target, was inaccessible to users for several
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.