[ISN] Pentagon Deflects Web Assault

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Thu Sep 10 1998 - 13:47:12 PDT

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    Pentagon Deflects Web Assault
    by Niall McKay
    9:55am  10.Sep.98.PDT
    The Pentagon struck back against Internet activists who attempted to hold
    an "online sit-in" Wednesday at the Defense Department's main Web site.
    The attack, which attempted to overwhelm the Web servers, also targeted
    sites for the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the president of Mexico. 
    "Our support personnel were aware of this planned electronic civil
    disobedience attack and were able to take appropriate countermeasures,"
    said Defense Department spokeswoman Suzan Hansen. 
    The group of Internet activists, who call themselves Electronic
    Disturbance Theater, support the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, fighting
    against the Mexican government. To draw attention to this cause, they
    attempted to temporarily disable certain Web sites by asking demonstrators
    to load a hostile Web-based program called FloodNet. 
    But the Pentagon said that the FloodNet attack -- which attempts to
    overwhelm Web servers by requesting multiple pages simultaneously --
    didn't get far. The Defense Department hinted that electronic
    countermeasures fended off the protesters. 
    "Measures were taken to send the countless demands [from the attacker's
    servers] into the great beyond," Hansen said. 
    Participants in the FloodNet protest needed only to load the FloodNet Web
    page. The page contained a Java applet configured to request and load the
    three target Web sites every three seconds. The Electronic Disturbance
    Theater estimated that up to 10,000 people took part in the demonstration,
    delivering 600,000 hits to each of the three Web sites per minute. 
    The automated rapid-fire requests are designed to overwhelm the target Web
    sites so they cannot be viewed by their intended audience, known as a
    "denial of service" attack. 
    The Pentagon's Web-site support team apparently struck back with a Java
    applet of its own. That applet sensed requests from the FloodNet servers,
    and loaded -- and reloaded -- an empty browser window on the attacker's
    desktop. The move forced the protesters to reboot their computers. 
    The Electronic Disturbance Theater declared the protest a success. 
    "Our interest is to help the people of Chiapas to keep receiving the
    international recognition that they need to keep them alive," said Brett
    Stalbaum, a member of Electronic Disturbance Theater and author of the
    FloodNet software. 
    The group described its action as electronic civil disobedience -- a
    relatively new phenomena, according to a lecturer with the Department of
    Economics at University of Texas at Austin. 
    "In a lot of ways it is simply the modern version of the tradition of
    civil disobedience," Harry Cleaver said "But there are a lot of problems
    associated with it. For instance, should US protesters have the right to
    protest on a foreign government's Web site?" 
    For Stalbaum, the answer is yes. 
    "We protested the Mexican president's site for an obvious reason," he
    said.  "We protested the Pentagon site because we believe that the US
    military trained the soldiers carrying out the human rights abuses at the
    School of the Americas." 
    However the action at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange was a symbolic protest
    against globalization, which is at the root of the Chiapas' problems,
    according to Stalbaum. 
    Officials at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange were aware of the protest but
    believed that it had not affected their services. "We get about 6 million
    hits a day," said a spokesman. "We were not aware of any reduction in
    services today." 
    The action was funded by a US$4,500 grant from TKTKTTmark, (pronounced
    "artmark") an activist group dedicated to anti-corporate activism by
    channeling funds from donors to workers. 
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