http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=218399&thesection=technology&thesubsection=general 22.09.2001 By JAMES GARDINER One of New Zealand's most critical infrastructure companies - but no one will say which - has been under attack for months from "cyber terrorists". Cabinet papers obtained by the Weekend Herald set out the background for the decision last month to establish a special $1 million-a-year unit within the Government Communications Security Bureau to deal with cyber attacks. The papers say the risks are increasing dramatically and the trend is likely to continue. Most of the threats from virus writers and hackers lie outside New Zealand, and better and faster communications services make this country potentially more vulnerable. The State Services Commission says one large telecommunications company has been under "sustained attack" for several months, but it does not identify the company. Companies such as the national grid operator Transpower, other electricity network companies, banks, oil and gas pipelines, emergency services, Government departments and telephone networks are considered potential targets of hackers and virus writers. Telecom and Clear Communications staff denied this week that their companies were the victims of the sustained attack. Information technology specialists think Telecom is the more likely victim. It is believed to have shut its big international internet link Netgate in January after having problems. Risks highlighted in reports to the Government include the relocation of critical banking facilities overseas, telecommunications links and denial-of-service attacks on the internet. In a report to State Services Minister Trevor Mallard last December, the commission's E-Government Unit said some banks, including the Reserve Bank, were moving retailing processing overseas. The Reserve Bank planned to move computers handling its "real time gross settlement system" to Australia along with the Austraclear system, the main means of settling debt securities transactions. The system is critical to New Zealand financial markets, with billions of dollars flowing through it daily. The report said two main risks were posed by the shifts: events in Australia, such as industrial action that would be outside New Zealand's control, and the possibility of damage to undersea transtasman telecommunications circuits. Both had the potential to disconnect New Zealand from its banking system. Denial-of-service attacks, where a target computer is flooded with requests it cannot meet, were "the most worrying attack type on the internet", said the report. "This is a volatile area and one which needs up-to-date information and a reasonable degree of co-operation to manage." The recently completed undersea Southern Cross fibre optic cable, which provides computer and telephone users with greater capacity for international communications, had increased the potential for denial-of-service attacks to cause more damage because a greater volume of requests could be sent to a target computer. Submarine telecommunications cables between the North and South Islands were particularly vulnerable because they were laid on the seabed rather than buried. A microwave backup existed but did not have sufficient capacity to replace the cables. On electricity distribution, the report said Transpower took its responsibilities to ensure continuity of supply extremely seriously, but the increasing reliance on information technology to manage the distribution network meant greater central focus was needed. The project team that produced the December report said it had been unable to gather information about the protection of electricity lines companies' infrastructure assets. It said there was clearly scope for industry cooperation to increase security in those areas. The Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection, being set up within the Government Communications Security Bureau with $269,000 of equipment, will have annual running costs of $847,000 a year plus GST. It will provide a free service to infrastructure owners and Government agencies, giving them warnings about viruses, denial-of-service attacks and software flaws. * james_gardinerat_private - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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