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the hakkers are coming!

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U.S. gives warning about hackers

Huge attack would target Windows



Friday, August 1, 2003 - Page B3

The U.S. government has issued a stern warning that computer hackers may be preparing to launch a sweeping attack that could potentially compromise millions of computers running Microsoft Corp.'s popular Windows operating systems.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's cyber-security branch reported that it had detected a dramatic increase in Internet-wide scanning for vulnerable computers.

In an unusually ominous alert, the department warned the threat could cause a "significant impact" on the Internet. Experts advised computer users to apply a free repair patch that Microsoft has offered on its Web site since July 16, when it acknowledged that the software flaw affected nearly all versions of its flagship Windows operating system software.

"This is a very serious issue," said Chris Wysopal, director of research and development at AtStake Inc., an Internet security company in Cambridge, Mass. He estimates about 90 per cent of the world's computers could be affected.

Over the past week, on-line security firms have seen a dramatic increase in "exploit" traffic: hackers searching computer systems for potential vulnerabilities. Once a computer has been accessed, a hacker can leave open a trap door, a gateway that will grant access to the computer at a later date.

The SANS Institute, an Internet security firm based in Bethesda, Md., estimates that about 2,000 computers around the world are at work scanning for vulnerabilities. Johannes Ullrich, SANS chief technology officer, estimates that about 20 per cent of the world's computers have been searched for flaws and thousands of users probably are unaware their systems have been successfully breached.

Once access has been gained, a computer can serve as a "launching pad" for a software worm, a fast-spreading computer infection that can have devastating results, said Dee Liebenstein, a Herndon, Va.-based group product manager with Internet security firm Symantec Corp. Predicting if and when a worm may be launched and its potential impact are "very difficult," she said.

A worm can spread anonymously and at an astonishing rate. Last January, the "SQL Slammer" worm doubled the number of computers it infected every 8.5 seconds in the first minute of its appearance. Internet service providers in South Korea were shut down, plane schedules were disrupted, about 13,000 Bank of America automated teller machines were closed and Internet traffic around the globe slowed to a crawl.

Damage from the computer worm was estimated at about $1.1-billion (U.S.).

Applying Microsoft's patch takes a few moments for home users, but it is a more daunting challenge for large corporations with tens of thousands of Windows computers.

With files from Associated Press


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well, no shit any large attack would target windows....rofl


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