Cyberattacks are nothing new, but the series of attacks against U.S. financial institutions since September has been much more powerful than usual and aimed at disrupting businesses and the economy rather than stealing trade or government secrets.
The latest victim was American Express, which went off line for two hours Thursday.
Most of these attacks are denial of service attacks, flooding a company's servers with so much traffic that they shut down. The attack is usually done by a botnet of infected personal computers.
But The New York Times reports that recent attacks have been ratcheted up: "Instead of using individual personal computers to fire Web traffic at each bank, they infected powerful, commercial data centers with sophisticated malware and directed them to simultaneously fire at each bank, giving them the horsepower to inflict a huge attack."
Because of the severity of the attacks and the change in motive from theft to destruction, most experts believe the attacks are government-sponsored.
A prime suspect is Iran, which announced the creation of its own Cyber Corps in 2010 after its effort to produce nuclear material was disrupted by a sophisticated cyberattack widely believed to have been the work of the U.S. and Israel.
North Korea is suspected in recent attacks on South Korean banks and media. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, has openly declared that his country is seeking online targets in its neighbor to the south to exact economic damage, the Times reported.
The largest contingent of instigators of attacks in the private sector, government officials and researchers say, remains Chinese hackers intent on stealing corporate secrets.
Geek term of the week: Pwn, pwned -- A misspelling of "own." To "own" is to win spectacularly, either at a game or at life in general.
Website of the week: chroniclingamerica.loc.gov -- This is the Library of Congress' attempt to digitally preserve newspapers from around the country. Each National Digital Newspaper Program participant receives an award to select and digitize approximately 100,000 newspaper pages representing that state's regional history, geographic coverage and events of a particular time period.
More library news: Another digital collection is being amassed at the famous Library at Alexandria (bibalex.org). The original ancient library would require any ship visiting Alexandria to turn over books it was carrying so that a copy could be made for the library.
Rather than commandeering books, the modern library has been building its digital collection by partnering with the Internet Archive (archive.org) , which has texts, audio, moving images and software as well as archived Web pages. Carnegie Mellon University has pledged to donate a million digital works over a period of five years from its digital collection (ulib.org).
Now you know: The last item in AT&T's list of password restrictions is: "The password can't contain obscene language." Just another place TechMan has to watch his mouth.
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