VIRTUAL VANDALS HIT NEWSPAPER SITES, TOO

By: Joel Davis

latimes.com, oregonlive.com Among Victims



Newspaper Web sites have not been spared the wrath of hackers who have
been striking a wide array of Internet locations, an E&P survey
reveals.



‘We got hit, and it was pretty scary,’ says Dan Royal, operations
manager for the Los Angeles Times’ Web sites. ‘We were being especially
careful because of what’s been going on. I normally go through a series
of checks, and I was in the middle of one of them when something looked
fishy.’



That was Wednesday in the midst of an onslaught of attacks against such
Internet giants as Yahoo!, Microsoft, eBay, Cnet, and CNN .com, among
others. Royal’s latimes.com halted infiltrators before any damage was
done. ‘We were lucky. There was no damage other than giving us a few
gray hairs,’ he says.



Across the country, newspaper Web sites took myriad precautions, with
varying degrees of success. At philly.com, the site for The
Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, state-of-the-art
safeguards offer little comfort to Managing Editor John McQuiggan.
While software manages to defeat the standard attacks that originate
from a single computer, the latest attacks have been from multiple
points, McQuiggan explains.


OregonLive.com, a Web site affiliated with The Oregonian in Portland,
had ‘a huge disruption’ in backup servers caused by diverted Web
traffic, says Kevin Cosgrove, the site’s editor in chief. ‘Our firewall
is constantly being updated,’ Cosgrove adds. ‘But if I say we feel
safe, hackers would see that as a challenge.’



At Cox Interactive Media, Chief Information Officer Joe Gallo says,
‘We’re very concerned about this activity because we have so many
brands out there that we are running and maintaining for the Cox
company as a whole.’ Cox Interactive hosts not only the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution Web site but also the sites of the far-flung
Internet division of Cox Enterprises. ‘I think with any virus, the
biggest challenge is first being able to identify it and be aware of
what’s happening to you, be aware that you’re under attack.’



As of today, determining that a site was under attack and taking
emergency measures was as far as most Web sites, even the biggest ones,
could go. Identifying the culprits, at least in the short run, is
beyond anybody – including, it admits, the federal government. Attorney
General Janet Reno says the FBI and other law-enforcement officials
have no strong leads – at least that they’ve announced. Under federal
law, disruption of computer networks is a felony punishable by up to
five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus damages.



The problem with countering this wave of hacker attacks is that so much
of the technology is new and yet in many cases readily available, says
Art Brodsky, director of communication for the U.S. Commerce
Department’s National Telecommunications and Information
Administration. ‘We really need to work on the defense,’ Brodsky says.
‘It’s hard because this is on a scale we haven’t seen before.’



Reporting contributed by Ellen Liburt, Ken Liebeskind, and Joe Strupp.



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