[ISN] DAVE WILSON: 'Hacktivists,' caught in web of hate, deface Afghan sites

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 00:17:14 PDT

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    [Again its amateur hour on the Internet, the attempts by hackers in
    trying to take out banks, electric power and communications equipment
    is buggering up the serious work being done by various military
    information operations teams around the globe. Not that I have any
    first hand experience, but I'd bet that its not helping in
    compromising IDS systems if they are going off all the time.  - WK]
    (October 2, 2001 6:47 p.m. EDT) - Angry computer enthusiasts reeling
    from the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and
    the Pentagon have lashed out at Web sites connected to Afghanistan by
    launching Internet attacks that deface home pages with obscenities and
    anti-Arab slogans.
    But such "hacktivist" attacks appear to have little effect on the
    ruling Taliban government -- which banned Internet access in
    Afghanistan -- and instead create headaches for private Web operators,
    some of whom are U.S. citizens.
    One site, the Afghan News Network, was knocked offline for 15 hours
    after a hacker attack, the site's operator said in an e-mail. "We have
    received lots of hate e-mail from people," according to the e-mail.
    The operator of the site, which provides news and updates about
    Afghanistan, declined to give a name. Those running the site said they
    are college students and American citizens.
    The FBI has condemned such vigilante action by hackers. Many attacks
    were directed specifically at sites connected to Afghanistan because
    investigators suspect the country is harboring Osama bin Laden, who is
    accused of masterminding the attacks.
    The agency's National Infrastructure Protection Center warned Internet
    users to be alert to "political hacktivism by self-described 'patriot'
    hackers targeted at those perceived to be responsible for the
    terrorist attacks." Attempts to interfere with Internet traffic are
    illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison.
    But such warnings have had little effect.
    A hacker apparently operating out of the former Soviet Union has
    repeatedly defaced an official Taliban Web site. In an e-mail
    interview, the hacker said his attack was politically motivated.
    "They bring only war in the world, and they must die," the hacker
    going by the screen name RyDen wrote.
    The defaced Web page, which contains several vulgarities, makes
    reference to terrorists in Chechnya, where Russian troops continue
    battling Islamic rebels believed to be backed by the Taliban.
    And a hacker or group of hackers known as Fluffi Bunni temporarily
    rerouted Internet traffic to point to his Web site, where a page
    declares, "If you want to see the Internet again, give us Mr. Bin
    Many of the hackers boast that they are committed to attacking the
    infrastructure of the Middle East, going after banks, electric power
    and communications equipment. So far, though, the attacks barely
    qualify as graffitti.
    "Mostly, these are kids playing," said cryptography expert Bruce
    Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security
    Inc. "We've seen several low-scale hacker wars whenever tensions get
    high, like with China and Japan, Israel and the Arabic world, and
    China and America. But we haven't seen large-scale government
    information warfare, with the possible exception of the Arab-Israeli
    The hacking community remains divided about such hacktivism, and many
    experts deride the efforts as little more than tantrums by the
    children usually behind them, who often have little technical skill.
    "I don't think it accomplishes anything," said Dorothy Denning, a
    professor of computer science at Georgetown University. "People engage
    in it to express anger, to have fun, to score points with their
    friends -- the same reasons for other hacking activities," she said.
    "There is one thing hacktivism does," she said. "It's a costly
    nuisance. You've got to try and defend against it, fix the security
    problems and clean up the mess."
    Dave Wilson is the Los Angeles Times' personal technology columnist.
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