Terror On The Internet
Cyber attacks July 2009
Cyber-terrorism can be defined as an assault on computers and computer networks via the World Wide Web using electronic means. Some people may consider the word terrorism too strong; however, cyber attacks have crippled some of the world’s most powerful governments and affected some technically advanced corporations. Put in that perspective, terrorism just may be an understatement.
An assault that began on July 4, 2009 continued unmitigated until July 10, 2009 and is believed to have infected computers in at least nineteen countries with networks in South Korea being the most affected. In terms of the extent of damage, South Korea was followed by the United States, China, Japan, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
A denial of service (DoS) or distributed denial of service is anattack that is characterized by the overwhelming of specific Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) servers with useless traffic. The July 2009 cyber attacks flooded targeted networks with numerous and unnecessary requests; this DoS led to computer outages on many of these networks. Unable to handle the high volume of traffic, and in an effort to mitigate damage or loss of data, some businesses and government departments shut down completely for several days.
Japan and South Korea are reported to have the world’s fastest and second fastest Internet networks, respectively. South Korea was one of the major targets of the July 2009 cyber-terror attacks. There was speculation that the reason Japan and South Korea were affected was because their advanced and high-speed IT infrastructure made it easy for the rapid and wide spread infection of networks in these two countries.
What is known is that, the DoS were caused by zombie computers linked in a network called a “botnet.” By most reports, the zombie computers that were used to carry out these attacks were located in more than one country, including some of the countries that suffered casualties. However, researchers are divided as to the level of sophistication of the attacks, and the estimates of the number of computers used in the attacks range from 60,000 to 100,000 systems.
Some analysts believe that the attacks were high-level government-sponsored cyber warfare, intended to sabotage specific government computer infrastructure. The United States National Intelligence Service released a statement saying, “this is not a simple attack by an individual hacker, but appears to be thoroughly planned and executed by a specific organization or on a state level.” In contrast, the head of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Rod Beckstrom, believes that the attacks were too unorganized to have been orchestrated at the government level and stated “the attacks lacked sophistication and were just a ‘basic hack job’ that a smart teenager could have launched.”
Cyber-security investigators around the globe worked diligently in an attempt to identify the source. Authorities in the United States forwarded copies of the malicious code to Internet security experts to have the digital fingerprints analyzed; the objective was, if not to identify the perpetrators, then, hopefully to thwart future attacks.
If the authors of the attack are discovered, how can they be punished, what law have they violated? Perhaps the investigators’ time and energies would be better spent trying to prevent future attacks. The World Wide Web makes Internet users vulnerable to many viruses, computer espionage, and other elements that can be harmful to their IT infrastructures. It is unlikely that cyber terrorism will ever be completely eradicated; however, by working together, governments can mitigate the damage caused in future attacks such as the one that took place in July 2009.
Robertson. (2009). JapanToday. Japan News and Discussion Experts work to untangle U.S., S Korea cyberattacks. Retrieved July 19, 2009, from http://www.japantoday.com/category/world/view/experts-work-to-untangle-us-s-korea-cyberattacks.
Sang-Hun, Choe and Markoff, John. (2009). The New York Times. Technology. Cyberattacks Jam Government and Commercial Web Sites in U.S. and South Korea. Retrieved July 19, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/technology/09cyber.html