Vol. 13, No. 4, Pg. 20. Cyberattacks.

Author:By John McElwaine

South Carolina Lawyer


Vol. 13, No. 4, Pg. 20.


20CyberattacksBy John McElwaineAs businesses become increasingly connected and dependent upon the Internet and electronic communications, the number of "cyber attacks" have increased dramatically. Malicious electronic hacks, thefts, disruptions, intrusions and defacements are on the rise. This article will reveal the scope of cyber attacks, identify some common means used to perpetrate these wrongs and discuss legal protection and remedies available.

The increase in cyber attacks and its impact

In February 2000, Yahoo!, Amazon.com, eBay, CNN, Buy.com and other Internet sites were shut down by denial of service attacks. These events brought the issue of cyber attacks into the national spotlight. Soon after, Louis Freeh, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) described the FBI's current cybercrime case load before the Senate Committee on Judiciary Subcommittee for Technology, Terrorism and Government Information (March 28, 2000):

In 1998, we opened 547 computer intrusion cases; in 1999, that had jumped to 1154. In short, even though we have markedly improved our capabilities to fight intrusion, the problem is growing even faster.

22A more troubling picture is painted by the 2001 Computer Crime and Security Survey. This study confirms that the threat from computer crime and other information security breaches is growing and that the financial toll is mounting.

* Eighty-five percent of respondents detected computer security breaches within the last twelve months. * Thirty-five percent of respondents were willing and/or able to quantify their financial losses. These 186 respondents reported $377,828,700 in financial losses. The most serious financial losses occurred through theft of proprietary information (34 respondents reported total losses of $151,230,100) and financial fraud (21 respondents reported total losses $92,935,500). * Forty percent of respondents detected system penetration from the outside (compared to 25 percent who reported system penetration in 2000). * Ninety-four percent of respondents detected computer viruses (compared to 85 percent in 2000). * Ninety percent of those respondents attacked reported vandalism of the Internet site (compared to 64 percent in 2000). * Thirteen percent of respondents reported theft of transaction information (compared to eight percent in 2000). * Eight percent of respondents reported financial fraud (compared to three percent in 2000).

Richard Poweres, 2001 CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey, Vol. 7, No.1, Computer Security Institute (Spring 2001).

Common methods of cyber attacks

The methods used to gain unauthorized access, identify security holes or steal data or code are numerous. The following is a list and explanation of some of the more common cyber attacks:

Denial of service attack -A denial of service attack (DoS) is intended to tie up a computer system's resources to such an extent that the system is unresponsive or crashes. During a typical Internet connection to a Web site, the visitor's computer sends a message asking the Web site's server to allow it to enter the site. How a Denial of Service Attack Works, CNET News.com (February 9, 2000). A DoS attack is accomplished by the supposed visitor's computer sending multiple and repeated authentication requests to the "victim" server that have false return addresses for the user. The Web Site's server continues to try to find the user, sometimes for more than a minute, before terminating its efforts. However, the DoS attacker continues to send new false requests, severely consuming system resources.

Eavesdropping - Eavesdropping is the passive collection of information through Internet channels. Hackers can install a program that enables them to monitor and intercept information such as log-on IDs, passwords, private e-mail messages and credit card numbers. After intercepting such information a hacker can assume a person's identity to access information and use stolen credit card numbers.

Insiders - An insider is a current or former employee of a company who possesses knowledge of the company's network that allows them to gain unrestricted access to cause damage to the system or to steal proprietary data. Statistically, insiders are a company's biggest threat of electronic theft or destruction of data.

Spoofing - Spoofing is accomplished by deceiving a computer user into believing that it is disclosing information to a trusted source. Forinstance, recently, criminals succeeded in stealing credit card numbers and other information from 10,000 Internet users with a fake e-mail asking them to register with Brazil's biggest Internet portal. The e-mail linked the unsuspecting subscribers to a Web site requesting personal information, induding credit card numbers.

Trojan horses - A Trojan...

To continue reading