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The BBC's Tom Carver in Washington
President Clinton cautioned against alarmism
 real 28k

Charles Wang, CEO Computer Associates
"I think a lot of the security technology is already available"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 19:13 GMT
Web attacks 'not electronic Pearl Harbor'

The summit aims to make the web more secure

President Clinton has met computer and business leaders to explore ways of tightening internet security following a wave of crippling attacks on leading websites.

He sought to reassure public confidence in e-commerce by insisting that last week's online disruption did not amount to an "electronic Pearl Harbor".

We ought to leave here with a sense of confidence that this is a challenge that was entirely redictable
President Bill Clinton
But he said the attacks - which left sites such as Yahoo, eBay and CNN temporarily disabled by vast amounts of junk data - served as a timely wake-up call.

"It's a source of concern, but I don't think we should leave here with this vast sense of insecurity," he told the White House gathering.

"We ought to leave here with a sense of confidence that this is a challenge that was entirely predictable.

"It's part of the price of the success of the internet."

The FBI is hunting saboteurs who paralysed Yahoo and other major sites
The White House hopes the gathering will lead to the forging of a new partnership between the private sector and government to share information and make the internet a safer place to do business.

The move follows the embarrassing disclosure that several banks sat on advance warnings of the sabotage campaign for several days, because they had been sworn to secrecy by a government-approved security scheme.

The US Government plans to spend $1.75bn this year on safeguarding its own internet infrastructure.

Warnings kept secret

On Tuesday, it emerged that several large US banks received detailed warnings about potential web sabotage before Yahoo became the first victim on 8 February - but delayed passing them on.

These latest attacks have been a wake-up call for America that more needs to be done, that we need to get together and do what we did to deal with the Y2K crisis
White House Chief of Staff John Podesta
Banking officials kept the information to themselves because their companies were part of a government-sponsored scheme designed to promote the sharing of security information between banks.

Under the rules of the scheme, approved by the Treasury Department, information disclosed within the group of banks could not be turned over to the FBI or police.

The banks eventually issued an alert on 4 February - four days before Yahoo fell victim - when they began to see evidence that attacks had begun.

President Clinton said the banks should not be blamed, adding that the situation highlighted the need for closer co-operation.

"They were just better organised to engage in information sharing," he said.

"What we want is for every sector of the economy to be in the same shape."

The banks' initial warnings are said to have revealed that attack software had been discovered implanted on powerful computers nationwide.

The messages also identified the specific internet addresses of these "zombie" machines, which are believed to have been taken over by the saboteurs to launch the attacks.


Press reports say the FBI has identified three possible suspects in the US and Canada whom it wants to question about last week's sabotage.

The Washington Post said the bureau had linked online aliases such as "mafiaboy" and "Coolio" to real names and addresses.

A German hacker called Mixter is also said to have admitted creating the software allegedly used to overload the sites - but he has denied carrying out the assaults.

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See also:
13 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Hacker inquiry leads to Germany
10 Feb 00 |  Business
Hunt for hackers draws a blank
12 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Hackers slam 'web vandals'
11 Feb 00 |  UK
A - Z: Hack attack

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