Threat of July 6 Hacker's 'Contest' Worries Government, Industry

Jeff McKay | Correspondent | Friday, July 04, 2003

Threat of July 6 Hacker's 'Contest' Worries Government, Industry

( - Government agencies and Internet security companies are taking seriously a "contest" that computer hackers are said to be planning for Sunday - in which thousands of websites would be attacked in a loosely coordinated effort to disrupt Internet traffic.

The group hosting the "contest" is called "Defacer's Challenge." In broken and grammatically incorrect English, the Defacer's Challenge website sets the contest as follows: "In 6 hours defacers will have the limit maximum of deface of 6,000 websites or either who to disfigure this amount in minor number of time will be the winner."

While making it clear on their website that hacking into another's website is a crime, the organizers claim they are not responsible for anyone participating in such activities.

"This is something new that we have never seen before, but we believe this is a credible threat," said Peter Allor, manager of the X-Force Threat Analysis Service for Internet Security Systems (ISS) of Atlanta, Ga. "We have investigated and analyzed this and believe there is a credible issue here."

The X-Force Threat Analysis Service is a cyber-threat early warning network.

While incidents involving website hacking and defacement have dropped off recently, according to ISS, there has been an increase in website scanning. Allor believes hackers may be "holding back" their activities until July 6.

ISS believes the threat should concern website hosting companies, since the contest is to deface and hack into a minimum of 6,000 websites in order to win.

"A company that hosts websites or multiple websites on multiple machines should worry. If you have a vulnerable web server, patch it and defend it. We emphasize all website administrators should ensure that their sites are not vulnerable," said Allor.

Home Internet users probably won't be directly affected, Allor said. The target appears to be website hosting facilities, specifically large, multiple-site hosting companies.

ISS has raised its early warning threat level to "AlertCon 2," based on a four-level scale. AlertCon 2, according to the ISS site, recommends "increased vigilance."

While it cannot determine exactly who is behind "Defacer's Challenge," ISS believes a network of individuals, perhaps with roots in Asia and South America, is behind the threat.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security say they are aware of the hackers' plans; however, they do not expect to issue any formal public warnings.

"Hacker challenges occur frequently, and we don't think they all rise to the level of a warning,'' stated David Wray, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

New York's Office of Cyber-Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination has alerted Internet providers and other organizations about the July 6 threat. They urge companies to change default computer passwords, begin aggressively monitoring website activities, and remove unnecessary functions from server computers.

According to the "Deface" website, the contest supposedly will award free hosting services, web mail, unlimited email and a domain name of choice for the winning hackers.

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