Security business booming in wake of Web attacks

By : |February 14, 2000 0

E-commerce companies are scrambling to add security to their Web sites in the wake of attacks on some of the most popular Internet sites during the past two weeks. That is generating a boom in business for companies selling anti-hacker security products and services. “We’re almost getting swamped with the number of calls we’re getting,” said Simon Perry, security business manager at Computer Associates International.


The attacks used a tactic called “denial of service” by planting software programs in dozens of “host” computers, which send an overwhelming volume of electronic data to the computers that manage Web sites. Network ICE of San Mateo in Silicon Valley said sales of its Black ICE Defender anti-hacker software ($40) jumped by up to 50 per cent this past week. The software allows computers to detect whether a hacker is scanning a computer to see if it can be used to launch attacks. It also can identify the scanning individual. “Black ICE is the ice you can’t see but slips up the hackers,” said chief executive Greg Gilliom.


Computer Associates in Islandia, New York, received a flood of inquiries from its large corporate customers seeking reassurances that their computers were safe. Computer Associates sells a range of business software and services called eTrust, which helps monitor Internet traffic and provide other protections against surreptitious attacks. “We’ve seen attempts to close down servers that run our infrastructure by sending large volumes of electronic data this past week. Using our own solutions, we were able to ensure that at no time did we have to shut our service down,” Perry said.


Seizing on the greater awareness of the Internet’s vulnerability, iDefense of Alexandria, Virginia, took out full-page newspaper ads in major US newspapers last week declaring “We Warned You.” The consulting business said it first warned of denial of service attacks nearly three months ago. Meanwhile, Federal agents have made little progress in identifying the culprits, although some reports have surfaced that traceable evidence has been detected. But to date officials said they don’t know whether the attacks are a prank by a clever teenager or an organized attack by a group with a political or criminal agenda


Part of the investigation has focused on a computer at the University of California at Santa Barbara where a PC located in a campus research lab was hacked into over the Internet and controlled remotely in an effort to overwhelm the CNN.com Web site last Tuesday. Another compromised machine was found at a University in Oregon. A dozen or more other computers have been used in the series of attacks on Yahoo, eBay, Amazon.com and others. But the two university machines appear to have given investigators their best sources for tracing the source of the hacking attack.

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