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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
FBI warns of surge in hacking
Pentagon in flames AFP
Hackers are divided over how to react to the attacks
The FBI has warned of an increase in hacking attacks following last week's suicide hijacking events in the US.

The cyber attacks were likely to be carried out by "self-described patriot hackers, targeted at those perceived to be responsible for the terrorist attacks", said the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC).

Malicious hackers have already defaced some websites, including that of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement.

But the hacking community appears divided over how to respond to the attacks, with some calling for an assault on the computer networks in suspect countries and others urging restraint.

The FBI has also alerted companies to be on guard against computer viruses, disguised as files related to Tuesday's tragedies.

A new version of an old virus has already appeared on the internet, renamed to WTC, apparently in response to the attacks.

Vigilantism

In its advisory, the NIPC reiterated that such activities were "illegal and punishable as a felony, with penalties extending to five years in prison".

Osama Bin Laden AP
Prime suspect: Osama Bin Laden
"Those individuals who believe they are doing a service to this nation by engaging in acts of vigilantism should know that they are actually doing a disservice to the country," it said.

Tuesday's attacks have divided the hacking community. One group calling itself The Dispatchers said it was planning a co-ordinated attack against the computer infrastructure in suspect countries.

In a statement posted on the internet, it said it had already disabled several Palestinian internet service providers.

"We have the potential and the power, if we push hard enough, to knock an entire country that we target offline for over a week," said a hacker quoted on the website of Government Technology, a magazine on the use of information technology in government.

"We had the basic idea of how we should go about this from our previous shot at Project China back in April and May, when we targeted China."

Back then, hackers in the US and China were engaged in an online battle, following the rise in tension between the two countries over the collision of a US surveillance plane with a Chinese fighter jet.

Bunni hack

One of the most prominent attacks so far this time came at the end of last week, when a hacker called Fluffi Bunni broke into the domain name server of web hosting company NetNames.


Electronic communication infrastructures like the internet are now necessary to contribute to international understanding

Andy Muller-Maguhn, Chaos Computer Club
Visitors were redirected to a page entitled "Fluffi Bunni goes Jihad", with all the sites hosted by the company pointing to one page which said: "If you want to see the internet again, give us Bin Laden and $5 million in a brown paper bag, Love Fluffi B."

These sorts of attacks have not received universal support from the hacking community.

The Computer Chaos Club, a well-known hacking group in Germany, strongly condemned the use of networks as battlegrounds.

"Being a galactic union of hackers, we simply cannot imagine to divide the world into good and bad at this moment, and use, of all reasons, religion as a criterion for such a segregation," it said in a statement.

"Electronic communication infrastructures like the internet are now necessary to contribute to international understanding," said CCC spokesman Andy Muller-Maguhn.

"In a situation like this, which is understandably tense, it's simply not acceptable to cut lines of communication and provide a stronger foundation for ignorance."

See also:

05 May 01 | Americas
White House website attacked
01 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Cyberwar the coming threat
16 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
When states go to cyber-war
10 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Truce' in US-China hacking war
14 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
FBI probes ISPs for clues
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