Feds look out for compromised computers in denial-of-service attacks

Feds look out for compromised computers in denial-of-service attacks

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

FEB. 9'Federal chief information officers and systems administrators are on the alert for compromised computers that could be used as staging grounds for distributed denial-of-service attacks, which hit several prominent Internet commerce sites this week.

The General Services Administration's Office of Information Security alerted agencies shortly before Attorney General Janet Reno today announced an FBI investigation of the attacks. Attack programs have been found on some government computers, although investigators could not say whether any government computers were used in this week's attacks.

The distributed denial-of-service attacks use as many as thousands of compromised third-party computers on which a hacker has installed programs to flood a single target site with messages, making it unavailable for legitimate use [GCN, Jan. 10, Page 3].

Ron Dick, chief of computer investigations and operations at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, said attack programs began to show up on compromised computers last year during year 2000 preparations.

Government officials and security experts said the key to defending against the attacks is to prevent intruders from installing malicious programs on unsecured computers. Two software tools for searching out the attack programs on networks and on individual hosts are downloadable from www.washington.edu/dittrich/misc/sickenscan.tar.

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