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Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 22:32 GMT
Hacker inquiry leads to Germany

ebay eBay was one of the sites targeted by hackers


Detectives believe a cyberspace onslaught mounted against some of the world's most popular internet sites may have originated in Germany.

The FBI-led US National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) is investigating a hacker called Mixter who may be based in Germany, Die Welt newspaper said.

Mixter is believed to have written the basis of a program called Stacheldraht (barbed wire) which is used to paralyse network computer with floods of spurious messages.

The NIPC launched its investigation following denial of service attacks on several popular websites last week, including Yahoo, Buy.com, eBay, Amazon.com and CNN.com.

Zombie computers

Computer security company Network Associates Inc said a computer in Germany had been identified as one of the so-called "zombies" used to launch the attacks and had since been disconnected from the internet.

Experts believe the hackers secretly installed their attack software on zombie computers, setting them up as accomplices in their attack.

In a denial of service attack, the zombie computers send commands to high capacity computers that flood the affected website with millions of messages, blocking access to users.

bill Bill Clinton: Security review
It is the cyber equivalent of jamming a telephone switchboard by making hundreds of calls simultaneously.

The University of California in Santa Barbara said that its computer system was used to aim the attack on the CNN website.

Kevin Schmidt, network programmer at the university's Santa Barbara campus said a desktop computer in a research lab was electronically broken into by a hacker before Tuesday night's attack on CNN.

Investigators may have to go through computer transaction records at dozens, possibly hundreds, of company sites, university computer systems and other places in order to track down the hackers.

The attacks will top the agenda when US President Bill Clinton meets the nation's top computer security experts later this week.

Mr Clinton is proposing a $2bn security programme to protect the country's most important computer systems.

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See also:
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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