Feds Set for Cyberattack Disguised as Y2K Bug

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Wednesday November 03 06:29 PM EST

Feds Set for Cyberattack Disguised as Y2K Bug

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (APBnews.com) -- Law enforcement officials are bracing for cyberattacks from any number of groups hoping to sow electronic chaos under the guise of the year 2000 computer glitch.

Federal and Canadian officials attending the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police here expressed that concern, and detailed the steps government agencies are taking to protect critical infrastructure, including the banking and finance systems, transportation networks, emergency services, energy systems and even water supplies.

"It's difficult to predict what is going to happen. It could be very serious. The threat is real and it continues to grow," said Edward J. Gaffney, supervisory special agent at the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC).

Staged secret attack

On a federal level, the NIPC, which is under the control of the FBI, is charged with collecting, analyzing and issuing warnings about potential threats.

Other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are also involved in the effort. In Canada, Project Solstice has been created to handle intelligence-gathering on Y2K threats.

In an effort to demonstrate the vulnerability of local police departments to cyberterrorists, a secret attack was carried out by the NIPC against a major metropolitan police department, said Gaffney. He did not name the department.

The results of that attack were so successful, Gaffney said, that the government hackers were able to gain total control of the police department's computers. And, the police department did not even know that its systems had been hacked.

"Basically they had control of the entire police department. Fortunately for us these were the good guys who were trying to see if there was a problem," Gaffney told about three dozen law enforcement officials. "We hope that you don't have the same vulnerabilities at the same rate as this department."

500 computers hacked by teens

He cited another example of the vulnerability of computers, this time many of them at the Pentagon and elsewhere in both government and the private sector that occurred when the United States was in a dispute with Iraq over nuclear weapons inspections.

At the time of the conflict, more than 500 computers were attacked in what has been called Solaris Sunrise, so named because the systems were running Solaris, a Unix clone operating system. The culprits were two 16-year-olds in California and an 18-year-old in Israel.

Gaffney said that if a few teenagers can do this, an organized effort could be much more serious.

Information sharing opens door

He said the sharing of information among different government and law enforcement agencies has opened the door to hackers, who have multiple ways to get into a system or network.

"There is very easy access to these systems through the Internet, and it is expanding to countries across the globe," said Gaffney. "The tools to do harm are very easy to achieve these days. Go to any search engine and type in 'hacker tools,' and there's everything you need to bring a system to its knees."

Canada aims to protect infrastructure

Across the border, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's (RCMP) Project Solstice is similar to the NIPC effort, aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to criminal activity, which may target Canadian infrastructure during the year 2000 transition.

"Our objective is to determine the potential for critical infrastructure targeting of Y2K vulnerabilities by organized crime, terrorists, extremists and criminal sponsors of civil unrest," said Sgt. Chuck Waring, project manager with the RCMP's Criminal Intelligence Directorate.

He warned that with the focus on fixing Y2K problems, security issues have fallen by the wayside.

Security breaches increase

The threat of computer systems being broken into is increasing, according to recent studies.

A 1998 study by the Computer Security Institute shows that 64 percent of companies polled reported information system security breaches -- an increase of 16 percent over the previous year. The total financial loss from the 241 organizations that could put a dollar figure on these intrusions added up to $136 million. This figure represents a 36 percent increase in reported losses over the 1997 figure of $100 million in losses.

And a study of 300 Australian companies by Deloitte & Touche found that more than 37 percent of the companies experienced some form of security compromise in 1997, with the highest percentage of intrusions -- 57 percent -- occurring in the banking and finance industry.

Earlier this year, NIPC director Michael Vatis testified before a congressional committee that in the private sector alone, damage from computer viruses topped $7 billion in the first half of 1999. And the Department of Defense detects 80 to 100 potential electronic intrusions every day, while the FBI's caseload for computer hacking and network intrusions has doubled each of the last two years.

The NIPC was created as part of Presidential Decision Directive 63, which encourages governments and the private sector to map out joint strategies to work together on critical infrastructure issues.

By David Noack, an APBnews.com staff writer (david.noack@apbnews.com).

-- Privacy (no@spam.none), November 04, 1999


Uh huh, sounds like they're setting up some scapegoats to me.

But I'm just paranoid, right? I mean, fed.gov wouldn't do that, would they?

Would they?

Jolly is skeptical

-- Jollyprez (jolly@prez.com), November 04, 1999.

These numbers are pretty darn close to what is going on on the net. You folks juse saw one of your bbs sites taken down over the weekend that should something.

This is pretty much a good description of what I observed first hand when I was with them.

-- (...@.......), November 04, 1999.

I think I am starting to get a better idea of what actually happened to the $6 billion the government supposedly used to fix the computers.

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), November 04, 1999.

Well, hacking CAN be recovered from in, oh, 2 or 3 hours.

First you start unplugging the co-ax, RJ-45 and phone/modem lines etc. to the hacked machine. Leave only the console operational.

Then you restore from last night's backup. Voila! You're back up.

Any failure lasting over, oh, say, 2-3 hours is gonna be courtesy Y2K.

-- lisa (lisa@work.now), November 04, 1999.

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