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Cyber Crime

10 Pages 2615 Words

First Yahoo! Then eBay. The Net's vulnerability threatens e-commerce--and you

The scenario that no one in the computer security field likes to talk about has come to pass: The biggest e-commerce sites on the Net have been falling like dominoes. First it was Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) On Feb. 6, the portal giant was shut down for three hours. Then retailer Inc. (BUYX) was hit the next day, hours after going public. By that evening, eBay (EBAY), (AMZN), and CNN (TWX) had gone dark. And in the morning, the mayhem continued with online broker E*Trade (EGRP) and others having traffic to their sites virtually choked off.

The work of some super hacker? For now, law enforcement officials don't know, or won't say. But what worries experts more than the identity of this particular culprit or outlaw group is how easily these attacks have been orchestrated and executed. Seemingly, someone could be sitting in the warmth of their home and, with a few keystrokes, disrupting electronic commerce around the globe.

DEAD HALT. Experts say it's so easy, it's creepy: The software to do this damage is simple to use and readily available at underground hacker sites throughout the Internet. A tiny program can be downloaded and then planted in computers all over the world. Then, with the push of a button, those PCs are alerted to go into action, sending a simple request for access to a site, again and again and again--indeed, scores or hundreds of times a second. Gridlock. For all the sophisticated work on firewalls, intrusion-detection systems, encryption and computer security, e-businesses are at risk from a relatively simple technique that's akin to dialing a telephone number repeatedly so that everyone else trying to get through will hear a busy signal. ''We have not seen anything of this magnitude before--not only at eBay, but across so many sites,'' says Margaret C. Whitman, CEO of eBay.

No information on a Web site was snatched, no...

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