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Saturday, 12 February, 2000, 12:05 GMT
Hackers slam 'web vandals'

computers Hackers usually target well-protected systems


By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida

The hacking community has viewed the attacks on major websites this week with disdain.

On websites, chatrooms and bulletin boards used by self-proclaimed hackers, the people behind the raids have been slammed as "packet monkeys", the lowest form of hacker.

Attack facts
Software 'daemons' hidden on hundreds of computers
Signal tells them to bombard a site with requests
Volume of internet traffic paralyses site
Daemons give false addresses
Daemons - acronym for disk and execution monitor
Others have used more derogatory language.

Hackers see themselves as skilled artisans, studying computer systems and security, then using their programming skill to expose loopholes.

They gain the respect of their peers by breaking into well-protected systems. For many the attacks on sites such as Yahoo and Amazon did a diservice to hackers.

'Script kiddies'

"The guys who got Yahoo aren't hackers, they're script kiddies," said one message posted on a news group.

mitnick Mitnick: A hacking legend
An article on the hacker information site, Hacker News Network, dubbed the attackers "pathetic kids."

"There is no grace, no skill, and no intellect behind these attacks. You are not a hacker and you do not deserve respect for your childish actions," it said.

"You are no better than the twisted individuals who spray a crowd of innocent bystanders with a machine gun, only to nick your intended target."

Hackers are keen to distance themselves from those who seek to create havoc on the internet. They argue they are motivated by intellectual stimulation rather than profit or malice.

"If you can't express yourself better than a saturation attack, and can't deal with being called a name or wronged somehow, seek help offline. You sorely need it," said the Hacker News Network article.

No special knowledge

The cyber assaults were mounted using software readily available over the internet which allows someone to send huge amounts of information to a computer system, overloading it.

Monday
Yahoo
Tuesday
CNN
Amazon
eBay
Buy.com
Wednesday
E*Trade
Datek
ZDNet
For hackers, this sort of attack, called a Denial of Service, requires no special programming knowledge.

But some security experts have warned that the nature of the raids suggests a well-organised and sophisticated group at work.

An e-mail from Yahoo engineers said the vandals knew what servers to target to cause the maximum disruption.

It described the Yahoo attackers as "smart and above your average script-kiddie," saying they "probably know both Unix and networking pretty well and learn about site topology to find weak spots."

In the hacking underground, technically-skilled but often alienated individuals earn respect of their peers by showing flashes of brilliance in exposing the vulnerability of a computer system.

Most hackers are anonymous, known only by their internet monikers.

Perhaps the most famous is Kevin Mitnick. A legend in hacker circles, he once headed the FBI's most wanted list.

He has just been released from jail, following a five-year prison sentence for a series of high-profile break-ins into the systems of, among others, Motorola, Nokia, Fujitsu, Novell, NEC, and Sun Microsystems.

Some in the hacking community have also rounded on the media over their reporting of the attacks, saying it is unfair to point the finger at hackers.

"We cannot permit them or anyone else to lay the blame on hackers," said the front page of one of the main hacking publication on the internet, 2600 Magazine.

"So far, the corporate media has done a very bad job covering this story, blaming hackers and in the next sentence admitting they have no idea who's behind it."

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See also:
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