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The BBC's Philippa Thomas reports
"An unprecedented co-ordinated electronic assault"
 real 28k

The BBC's Nick Bryant reports
"Officials concerned that cyber vandalism is a deliberate attempt to disrupt business"
 real 28k

BBC Science's Corrine Podger
"Critics of the internet say the attacks have highlighted the vulnerability of the net"
 real 28k

Douglas Hurd, Network Associates
"Cleaver hackers cover their tracks very well"
 real 28k

Saturday, 12 February, 2000, 15:18 GMT
Internet sabotage spreads

The FBI have opened investigations

Online brokerages E*Trade and Datek as well as web publisher ZDNet are the latest victims of a well-organised campaign to bring big web sites to their knees.

US Attorney General Janet Reno pledged to use the full resources of the government to stop the unprecedented series of attacks on some of the internet's most popular commercial websites.

Under attack
On Monday, the world's most popular website, search engine Yahoo was hit. On Tuesday, Amazon and eBay suffered cyber attacks.

All companies experienced sudden and sustained difficulties with their websites, blaming them on so-called "denial of service" attacks, where a flood of meaningless data create virtual traffic jams.

E*Trade is the second largest online broker in the US, and Datek the fourth largest. Both companies insisted that the security of customer accounts had not been compromised.

We are committed to in every way possible to tracking those who are responsible
Janet Reno, US Attorney General

E*Trade spokesman Patrick DiChiro said "access to the site was essentially clogged up".

He said less than 20% of customers were unable to log on. The attack lasted about an hour, beginning at 1300 GMT.

ZDNet's website, which covers technology news, was shut down for two hours and also "appeared to have been the target of a denial-of-service attack".

So far there are no indications as to who could be behind the attacks or what the motive could be.

Web experts say that a single person or a whole group of hackers managed to break into other people's computers to launch the attack.

Such hackers are also called crackers because of the damage they do.

FBI to investigate

Ms Reno said that "these cyber-assaults have caused millions of Internet users to be denied services."

She said the motives of the vandals are not known "but they appear to be intended to interfere with and disrupt legitimate electronic commerce."

"We are committed to in every way possible to tracking those who are responsible," she added.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has now begun to investigate the attacks, meeting with executives from Yahoo.

There has been speculation that the attacks could be a demonstration of strength, preparing the ground for a blackmail attempt.

The attack on, for example, appeared to have been timed to coincide with the company's initial public offering on the stock market.

The blitzing of eBay may have been planned to embarrass the firm as it unveiled a venture with the Walt Disney Company's to develop sites to sell movie props and other memorabilia.

All the companies said the saboteurs did not gain access inside their computers or retrieve information about their customers.

'Seriously affected'

However, the chaos highlights the vulnerability of even the best-protected websites and could shake public confidence in the booming global e-commerce economy. chief executive Greg Hawkins described the sabotage of his company's site as "an outside co-ordinated attack to our network that prevented access to our system".

CNN said its site had been "seriously affected".

It fell under attack for nearly two hours before technicians were able to shield its computers from the saboteurs late on Tuesday night.

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See also:
09 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
FBI investigates net sabotage
08 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Yahoo brought to standstill
08 Feb 00 |  Sci/Tech
Yahoo attack exposes web weakness
11 Jun 99 |  The Company File
Online auction site crashes

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