SABOTAGE! : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Y2K - Problem Highlights West's Vulnerability To Cyber Attack

By Paul Taylor 5-5-99

LONDON - Advanced Western societies are more vulnerable to technological sabotage by hackers, terrorists or hostile governments than to the millennium computer bug, a leading think-tank warned on Tuesday.

While the so-called Y2K problem was a known quantity, with a clear deadline, and methods to solve it were well in hand, the threats to the large, complex and fragile interconnected information systems of 'wired nations' were more serious, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said.

"Existing security concepts provide some protection but nowhere near enough," the IISS said in its annual "Strategic Survey".

It said malicious attacks were certain to be mounted in future and the West was increasingly dependent on computer networks in military operations, communications, electrical power supplies, banking, finance and transport.

Protecting Western societies against cyber-attack will require an effort by industry and governments "of the kind and size now being directed at known Y2K vulnerabilities", it said.

The millennium problem arises because many older computers and programmes may treat the year 2000 as 1900, triggering system crashes, because they record dates using only the last two digits of the years.

The IISS said other vulnerabilities were not as well publicised or understood as Y2K but potentially more serious.

For example, the U.S. military routes 95 percent of its communications through commercial cables, towers and satellites, the survey said.

Among the potential threats were denial-of-service attacks, where an intruder shuts out all users from a particular communications systems or computer network.

The survey quoted a U.S. expert who claimed he could bring the United States infrastructure to its knees in 90 days with 10 selected computer specialists. The U.S. Defence Department reckoned 30 specialists could do the job with $10 million.

"To safeguard key infrastructures, potentially targeted nations must begin to set security measures in place now, before malicious individuals, organisations or governments identify the networks to target, obtain full data and carry out an attack," the London-based institute said.

It cited the devastating impact of an overwhelming ice storm on Canada in January 1998 as an example of such vulnerabilities.

Up to seven million people were left without power in eastern Canada, some for up to a month.

"Nature may have been the culprit this time, but another time it could be an attack from a computer hacker or terrorist group which knocks out the systems controlling the distribution of electricity," the Canadian Security Intelligence Service commented at the time.

The IISS said even shorter lasting failures of information infrastructure control would result in large commercial losses and perhaps even loss of life, if a well-prepared enemy launched an information attack.

Automated, user-friendly attack programmes that spread computer viruses via the Internet were improving and proliferating, it said.

"While the more sensational reports about the Y2K problem, and the splash caused by hacker attacks, capture press attention, it is the secret, systematic devotion of resources to information sabotage by states, or significant sub-state actors with an international presence, that poses the primary threat to information operations," the report said.

Among significant threats were those posed by disaffected employees who may sabotage systems in anger at policies or actions of a company or organisation, it said.

-- Andy (, May 06, 1999


From the virus thread:

As regards outright sabotage I (and the FBI/CIA) believe it a very real and serious concern. I have no doubt that there are many many warped/frustrated/disgruntled you name it programmers out there waiting to put the spanners in.

Then you have expat programmers (have you any idea how many entered the US in the last year or two?) working here in the USA on rushed, sensitive, probably not very well supervised projects. Think about the access these folks have. Timebomds, trap doors, replicating viruses etc. you name it.

Lastly you have all of our wonderfull IT managers outsourcing our code to India and all points west. Hell we're EXTREMELY popular in India :)


-- Andy (, May 06, 1999.


No need to respond to your own posts! They almost always have merit. Isn't it true that Russia, China, and India were forming some kind of pact? I'm not sure that I have all the players right but...

Isn't it also true that we're farming a lot of our IT work out to India, who coincidentally seems to be siding with our adversaries? If Y2K wasn't complicated enough, here comes China! Wouldn't this be a wonderful opportunity to get back at those capitalist thugs!?


I happen to like being a capitalist thug.

-- d (d@dgi.old), May 06, 1999.

We're outsourcing code to not just India - but, help me out here, Korea, Central Europe, Singapore - I really don't have the stats but there is a thriving industry for this sort of thin. Also work permits have been relaxed to allow foreign nationals in to the USA to help in the remediation effort. Just takes a few, even one (say in the DOD), sophisticated/cunning programmer (this rules out CET and Co.) to be in the right place.

-- Andy (, May 06, 1999.

I was wondering when this topic would be brought up.

For a quick dose of sanity, see the Crypt News site.

-- Stephen M. Poole, CET (, May 06, 1999.

Thanks for the non-info Poole PET,

The link you provided has absolutely no relevance to the potential threat that we were discussing. In case you have been living in a cave for the past few months, it has become apparent that foreign intelligence has gained some interesting information from us (the U.S.). If the labs that created the first atomic weapons are not safe, then perhaps you could explain to me why unregulated companies are? If China wants to screw with our code, it has already been done. Can't you see that?

-- d (d@dgi.old), May 06, 1999.

For a quick dose of Sanity yada yada blah blah

Stop it, please, you're cracking me up :)

So the Canadian Secret Service, the International Institute For Strategic Studies, the CIA and FBI are all insane (well, yes many of them may be but that's another story: ) whilst you Poole are in your own little sea of tranqulity, of sanity...

I'm scaremongering again I suppose am I :)

Do you do stand up?

-- Andy (, May 06, 1999.

Andy, it means they expect Y2K to be small, not terrorism to be TREMENDOUS.

Hey, you gotta have something to pump the budget.

-- Paul Davis (, May 06, 1999.

A former regular on this forum mentioned this last year -- I think it was yankeejdc -- and I came across another mention of it later on -- the New York Times computer expert did an article on computer security in March or April of 97 (?) that mentioned companies outsourcing y2k repairs to India and Russia. He quoted several in-house geeks at those companies as saying they were getting the code back with multiple back doors programmed into them, especially those that had gone to India. And those were just in the companies that were actually looking for them! The original article was in the Times archives for a while, not sure if it's still findable. Must be in their index, I'm sure.

-- Cash (, May 06, 1999.

Terrorism is the threat that may take y2k to teotwawki! It could be a 2 and end up a 10 with the right people messing with things. Certain companies are ramping up security because they think it is going to happen! Just know, can't hot links to info! But I promise , I don't lie.....and I am not a doomer so to speak...but think it could go there for other reasons!

-- Moore Dinty moore (, May 06, 1999.

Protests Reach Cyberspace By Stacy Lu --

May 9, 8:30pm PT  Protests over NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade have spilled into cyberspace.

Enraged hackers apparently attacked the official Web site of the U.S. embassy in China yesterday, took over the Web sites of the Departments of Energy and the Interior today, and established their own online convention center at a site called killusa.

The Department of Interior Web site on Sunday showed pictures of the Chinese journalists killed on Saturday when NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. The Department of Energy site read Protest USAs Nazi action.

It was unclear whether the hacking was done by Chinese or not, though several messages on Chinese Web sites and message boards based in China claimed that it was.

According to news reports from Chinese media, hackers also launched attacks on the official White House site, which reportedly has a automated restoration function set to operate within five seconds of an attack.

The messages they posted on the attacked sites were vitriolic, patriotic and, in some cases, poetic.

One site read Down with the Yanks. The fate of the Chinese people has reached the most critical pointa play upon the words of the Chinese national anthem, reflecting a similar patriotic call after the Japanese invaded China in 1937.

A poem was posted that has appeared before other civilian unrests in China, particulary in 1976 after the death of Premier Zhou Enlai. A rough translation: I grieve while the wolves howl/I cry while the beasts cheer/I shower the martyrs with my tears while unsheathing the sword.

Communist slogans also appeared, a rarity in today's China. One of the hacked sites declared This hill has been taken over by the commies.

Message Boards Overflowing

Bulletin boards based in China were full of messages condemning the U.S. and NATO's mistaken bombing of the Chinese embassy.

You think you have a strong army without human nature and a great number of brazen politicians just like you...pose as the world cop and think the world must run under your rules, your human rights, your democracy," one message read.

The Department of Energy site's home page also had a message that read, We are Chinese hackers that takes no cares about politics, but we can not stand by seeing our Chinese reporters been killed.

The hackers' own site at, a repository of hacking strategies, had nearly 1,000 messages Sunday, either reporting sites being hacked or expressing anti-American sentiments.

Rumors, none apparently based on fact, flew thick and fast, among them that NATO had again bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and that Chinese President Jiang Zemin had said that China must be prepared to go to war. Another stated that the intelligence reports provided to NATO prior to the embassy bombing were supplied by a NATO officer angry with China over its treatment of Tibet.

A contributor to the page also suggests manning a full-scale attack on American Web sites, disseminating computer viruses, and attacking the sites continuously in a method the hackers term machine- gunning. Another suggests targeting financial sites.

Copyright 1999 ABC News Internet Ventures

-- Andy (, May 10, 1999.

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