Volume 93, Issue 73

Wednesday, February 9, 2000


Public library moves to mall

New degrees fall under community microscope

Gay meds face classroom barriers

No cheering as hackers shut down internet search engine

HRDC grant money questioned


Back Asswards

Caught on campus

No cheering as hackers shut down internet search engine

By Heather Buchan
Gazette Staff

Yahoo! was put out of service for several hours Monday, after falling victim to hackers who flooded the internet's most popular search engine with electronic requests.

Yahoo! experienced a co-ordinated distribution denial of service, as a result of external computer vandals sending mock traffic, creating what a Yahoo! spokesperson described as a traffic jam.

The attack occurred at 1:30 p.m. and service was restored at 4:30 p.m., after a Yahoo! team working on the problem installed software filters which stopped the mock traffic from coming through, she said.

The Yahoo! spokesperson said no user data was compromised during the ordeal because the attack was external and the hackers did not gain access to internal programming structures. Customers were unable to access information while the system was down.

Elias Levy, chief technology officer at Security Focus, a California-based security firm specializing in the prevention on computer crime, said yesterday's attack served as a reminder of how vulnerable the online world is to computer vandals.

"Nobody is really safe," he said. "In this particular attack, the hackers were able to consume all the network resources, stopping customers from connecting." He said the threat facing smaller sites is quite serious, considering all of Yahoo!'s resources were consumed. "If they were able to temporarily shut down such a large site, imagine what could happen to smaller ones with less resources."

According to Levy, it will be virtually impossible to find, or even stop the culprits. "It literally took hundreds of machines to co-ordinate this attack, therefore it would take too long to backtrace to the individuals who made this electronic attack," he said. Levy explained the assault came from multiple geographic locations, which increased the difficulty in tracking the vandals.

"Sadly, it is not easily preventable because of the nature of the internet," Levy said of the attack. The filters could not stop hackers from overwhelming routers, but could shut them down, which is how yesterday's emergency was ended.

Michael Bauer, senior director of Information Technology Services at Western, said the Yahoo! failure obviously did not affect anyone on campus, unless of course they were using Yahoo! at the time it was inaccessible.

"It didn't really have any impact on us. I didn't see any particular problems on campus," he said, adding the department only heard about the problem through newscasts and they were not even aware of the situation at the time it was happening.

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