[ISN] Civilian Hackers Go Online to Fight

From: cult hero (jerichoat_private)
Date: Thu Apr 15 1999 - 14:47:04 PDT

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    Forwarded From: Luther Van Arkwright <wasteat_private>
    E-Strikes and Cyber-Sabotage: 
    Civilian Hackers Go Online to Fight 
    7.19 a.m. ET (1119 GMT) April 15, 1999 
    By Patrick Riley  
    Richard Clark is not in the military, but when he heard news reports
    earlier this month that NATO's Web site had been attacked by Belgrade
    hackers, he wanted to do his part to help the allies. So he turned to his
    Using software available on the Internet, the California resident sent an
    "e-mail bomb" to www.gov.yu, the Yugoslav government's main Web site. On
    April 3, a few days and 500,000 e-mails into the siege, the site went
    down, Clark said. 
    Clark does not claim full responsibility for the cyber-sabotage; he
    assumes others may have had similar ideas. But he is confident he "played
    a part." 
    He is just one of untold numbers of civilians on both sides of the
    conflict who have gone to battle from their desktops, raising new
    questions about the role of civilians during times of war. 
    The Internet Onslaught
    Although classified NATO or Yugoslav information is not connected to the
    Internet, tactics like e-mail bombing  sending mail non-stop to the same
    address until it floods its server  can still cause major trouble.
    Crashing public Web sites could cut off main channels of propaganda or
    disrupt important budgetary information that militaries do store online. 
    "If you got the right access you could actually turn their machines off,"
    stated Clark, who said he served in the Army and has worked for the
    Department of Defense and the FAA, and now runs a private firm which sets
    up computer networks. "That has a whole snowball effect." 
    But he admits his was a low-tech attack. He likens it to "stuffing a
    T-shirt down your toilet and flushing it." 
    "There's probably real hackers out there trying to do it, doing things
    that are far more sinister than what I was doing," he said. 
    Indeed this appears to be the case. The Boston Globe reported that an
    American hacking group called Team Spl0it has broken into several Web
    sites and posted statements such as "Tell your governments to stop the
    war" and a coalition of European and Albanian hackers calling themselves
    the Kosovo Hackers Group has replaced at least five sites with black and
    red "Free Kosovo" banners. 
    On the other side, in addition to the attacks on the NATO site  suspected
    to be the work of Serbs  Russian hackers have gone after U.S. Navy sites. 
    Any damage caused by such stunts, however, is often quickly remedied  the
    Yugoslav site was back online soon after its early April troubles. 
    And the biggest attack on Yugoslavia's information infrastructure has come
    not from the hands of hackers but from NATO bombers blowing up bridges
    used to carry wires, and even from the Yugoslav government itself
    dismantling communications systems to deprive its people of outside
    Vigilantes and 'Hacktivists'
    Still, encouraging civilians to participate in a diplomatic or military
    conflict "would set a dangerous precedent," said John Vranesevich, founder
    of AntiOnline, a Web site that tracks the hacking culture. He worries that
    vigilante "hacktivism" in the name of a nation could have War Games-like
    "You could have shut down communications to a country and all of a sudden
    it looks like something our country did on an official stance,"  he said,
    adding that diplomatic relations with Beijing were strained a few years
    back when a site run by hackers Legions of the Underground posted a
    declaration of war against China. 
    "I think hacking is a bad idea, no matter what it's directed at," said
    Peter Tippett, president and CEO of the International Computer Security
    Association, a Reston, Va.-based consulting firm. 
    Such terrain should be left in the hands of the military, he said. "If the
    military thought it was appropriate to attack the infrastructure of
    Yugoslavia they would certainly do it," he said. "They can do it if they
    want to and they would be far more effective than a kid with tools of the
    The Department of Defense, the State Department and the FBI's National
    Infrastructure Protection Center all declined to discuss ongoing
    cyber-warfare. The Department of Justice did not return a call for
    Clark hopes the military is doing its best to hack Serb systems. "It would
    seem to me that you'd want to use all your assets at a time like this," he
    He says his own vigilantism is therefore easily justifiable. "This is war
    and everyone should do their part," Clark said. "I think the illegality
    stops when you're at war, really." 
    Brief Triumph
    But before Clark could revel in his victory too long, he got an unpleasant
    response from his Internet service provider. The ISP, Pacific Bell, cut
    off his service. (However, he said, he can still log into his e-mail
    account through a friend's computer.) 
    While he expected the Internet and phone company might inquire as to his
    activities  especially if the mail had bounced back and clogged PacBell's
    server  he said he didn't expect such punishment. 
    A PacBell spokeswoman said Internet behavior like Clark's violates its
    spamming policy  and war is no excuse for that. "In general, they don't
    change their policies based on what's going on in the world,"  she said.
    "Somebody else could come back and say they need to spam this dog site
    because 'they didn't take good care of my dog.'" 
    "How, in a time of war, can my ISP cancel my account for attacking the
    enemy?" he asked via e-mail. "This is not right. We can pound these
    military targets with bombs, but a private citizen cannot hack the
    enemies' Web presence? This is just ludicrous!!" 
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