Hcker prompts e-mail shutdown

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Thursday, February 10, 2000 Hacker prompts e-mail shutdown By JOSHUA L. WEINSTEIN, Staff Writer

Copyright ) 2000 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

Early Wednesday - at 6:30 a.m. - Yvonne Murphy tried to check her e-mail. She couldn't. Twelve hours later, she still couldn't.

"It's a nightmare," said Murphy, a literary agent in Lewiston. "I depend on it quite a bit."

About 9,000 other Mainers had the same problem: A hacker tried to get into their Internet service provider's server late Tuesday night, so the provider, Internet Maine, changed all of their passwords.

That meant they couldn't log on to the Internet or to their e-mail.

And that meant Internet Maine had a hard time telling its customers what was going on.

Susan Shelby, the corporate communications manager of Harvard Net, which owns Internet Maine, compared the problem to losing telephone service.

"When your phone goes down, the telephone company can't call you to tell you there's anything wrong," she explained.

The company is sending letters to all affected customers in Maine, and has posted notices on its web site and the Internet Maine web site, but many customers can't read those notices because they can't log on to the net.

The notice tells customers that "Several large service providers were attacked over the past two days. In a proactive security measure, we decided to change all e-mail passwords of our Maine dial-up to computer-generated passwords in order to protect our customers and ourselves against a security breach."

It asks customers to dial a toll-free number to receive the new password. The notice tells only part of the story.

Shelby said that on Tuesday night, "we detected someone trying to access one of our servers, so in light of the recent problems, we wanted to take proactive measures." She emphasized that no customer information was lost, and said a security person "has been working on this non-stop since."

Internet Maine has been extra vigilant in the past two days because hackers have managed to disrupt companies like Yahoo and E*Trade.

Harvard Net has customers in Maine, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Only customers in Maine were affected by the attempted cyber break-in.

The company has 50 employees in the Portland area.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 10, 2000

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