FBI, Pentagon brace for Y2k hacker attacks

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FBI, Pentagon brace for Y2k hacker attacks December 2, 1999

Web posted at: 9:59 p.m. EST (0259 GMT)

From Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI and the Pentagon are planning a special vigil as 1999 comes to a close, fearing both government and private sector computers could come under attack as the calendar changes to 2000.

Terrorists, hostile nations, criminals and recreational hackers could all launch assaults at the same time -- and could use Y2K malfunctions to hide their actions.

"It is not at all unreasonable to expect the people and the groups who engage in those activities every day might focus their activities at the same time around the date change," said Michael Vatis, head the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC).

Established at FBI headquarters in February 1998, the NIPC is the government's control center for threat assessment, warning, investigation, and response for threats or attacks against critical infrastructure.

Potential targets include computers that handle government agencies, banking transactions, utilities, transportation systems and communications networks.

While the FBI has not identified any specific threats, it is preparing a large-scale response.

24-hour command post planned

From December 29 through January 5, the FBI will maintain a 24-hour command post at its headquarters and run similar operations at all 56 of its field offices throughout the country.

A Pentagon monitoring station also will be on alert to guard against intrusions.

The intensive government response is, in part, a reflection of a growing trend. Every day there are 80 to 100 hacking attempts on Pentagon computers and still more on other government databases.

This year there have also been a number of virus attacks causing widespread disruption to private businesses.

Computer crime caseload growing

In fact, the FBI computer crime caseload has doubled each of the last two years. In October, the agency reported 800 pending cases.

"They have vulnerabilities even without the Y2K opportunity added on to them," said Richard Power of the Computer Security Institute. "So that's why there is activity about contingency plans."

Companies around the nation are taking the potential threat seriously.

"Y2K and concern about viruses and other cyber crime during this millennium transition is something that is very important to our customers," said Marc Soqol, senior vice president of Computer Associates, one of the largest providers of computer security software.

FBI officials don't want to scare the public, but, they say, high profile events like the millennium change are often a magnet for criminals, even those operating in cyberspace.

-- (in@the.news), December 03, 1999




Saturday December 4 1:09 AM ET

Y2K Viruses Prompt New Concern

By ANICK JESDANUN AP Internet Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Think you've beat the Y2K bug? Think again.

Anti-virus experts know of at least three computer viruses timed to erase hard drives on Jan. 1.

Two other viruses activate immediately and spread by posing as Microsoft programs that fix Y2K problems or count down to the new year. And more may be discovered in the coming weeks.

``It's a very high-profile time for virus writers,'' said Jim Balderston, business analyst with McAfee.com, an anti-virus software distributor. ``On New Year's, they'll be getting it up on a very big billboard.''

Don Jones, director of Year 2000 readiness at Microsoft, said viruses could become the largest New Year's threat for consumers.

The latest virus could make computers display an error message symptomatic of a Y2K problem. After users fix the clock system and reboot, the virus then tries to erase data.

Symantec Corp (NasdaqNM:SYMC - news)., an anti-virus software maker, said Friday the virus infects Windows computers by using Outlook, a Microsoft e-mail program, to send itself to the listed addresses.

The virus arrives as an e-mail message that says: ``Here's some pictures for you!'' and comes with an attached program. Running the attachment, labeled pics4you.exe, activates the virus immediately and sets Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser to a porn site.

The real damage, though, comes in the new year. Furthermore, the virus can activate during all of next year, so computers that are shut down on Jan. 1 are not immune.

Security advisers say Y2K viruses are no different from thousands of others already identified. So computer owners should be OK if they take precautions.

For example, users should refuse to open e-mail attachments from unknown sources. And they should check first to make sure friends actually sent the attachments that arrived under familiar addresses.

Users should also install software to block viruses and get the latest free updates off the Internet. Because of the Y2K threat, Microsoft and leading anti-virus software makers are already making virus-detection products available for 90-day free trials.

Carey Nachenberg, chief researcher at Symantec's anti-virus lab, said anti-virus software makers are likely to know of Y2K viruses well before Jan. 1 and should have updates available for new threats by then.

If new viruses invade that day, he said, the holiday weekend will limit the spread.

Still, the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and leading makers of anti-virus software will be watching throughout that weekend.

``Maybe it'll be a big nonevent. Maybe there will be a lot of activity,'' said Mark Zajicek, a technical staff member of CERT, the computer emergency response team.

Jim Balderston, business analyst with McAfee.com, an anti-virus software distributor, also warned of viruses timed for Jan. 3 and 4, the days most workers return to their computers.

-- (in@the.news), December 05, 1999.

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