Feeds

Hacking activity plummets

Official figures help dispel cyberterror fears

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Security breaches and hacking attacks have diminished in numbers since the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to data from a US government monitoring agency.

Monthly reports by the Federal Computer Incident Response Center (FedCIRC), a central security coordination and analysis facility run by the US government, show just 15 incidents of intruder activity reported to it last month - less than a third of that recorded in December 2000.

This compares to a peak during 2001 of 297 incidents (which include root compromises of systems, Web face defacement attacks [presumably counting only high profile targets], probes and malicious code outbreaks) in May. In August there were 114 such incidents but this had dropped to 63 by September, which was especially surprising because of the anticipated upswing in hacking activity following the September 11 attacks.

As FedCIRC says, these statistics should be treated with caution and used only to get a general impression of the variety of intruder activity.

However security experts with Harris Corporation, which provides security software systems for both federal government and private sector customers, say hacking activity is the slowest they've seen in years.

Bill Wall, chief security engineer at Harris, said this lull was especially pronounced in December, a time when college students are on holiday and hacking activity picks up.

Among the reasons for the change are improved enterprise security practices and behaviour-based intrusion detection tools to block attacks, Wall believes. He said around three in four NT servers he comes across now are "hardened" against attack against less than 50 per cent a year ago. Harris believes this modest improvement might lead crackers into targeting computers of home users rather than businesses.

The introduction of laws that equate hacking with terrorism might also be having an effect, said Wall, who believes hacking activity will remain low unless something like the spate Chinese/US hacking attacks from early last year kicks off.

"You're not seeing that kind of cyberwar with Al-Queda," said Wall.

Records from the U.S. Space Command Computer Network Operations Center, which conducts computer network defence on behalf of the Defense Department, show an immediate lull in cracker activity following the World Trade Centre atrocity, though not for the rest of the year.

Major Barry Venable, a spokesman for the U.S. Space Command, which is responsible for three million computers spread over 10,000 networks, said that intrusion activity attempts actually decreased in the two to three weeks after September 11.

"We were watching networks very closely after September 11 because it was considered a ripe environment for people to be motivated towards hacking, however that didn't happen. I think hackers didn't want to be linked with terrorism," he told us.

U.S. Space Command data is only available up to October and that shows that attacks against Department of Defence systems, always a favourite target for crackers, have "continued unabated" throughout the year. Intrusion attempts against DoD systems totalled 40,000 for the first 10 months of 2001 against 26,000 for the whole of 2000 but the "primary reason" for this increase is improvements in detection technology, we were told. ®

Related stories

Taleban can't hack - UK govt
FBI condemns vigilante hacking
Hackers are terrorists, says UK law
Bush admin to make hacking a terrorist offence
MS makes its pitch on security, cyber terror to House
US Congress whips up 'cyber menace' again
Cyber Virus Mutant Terrorists get Hip to the Trip
Bill Clinton associates Love Bug with terrorism

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.