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DAVE WILSON: 'Hacktivists,' caught in web of hate, deface Afghan sites
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 02:17:14 -0500 (CDT)


[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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