Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Online attack hits US government Web sites

It was a crappy 4th of July weekend for many network admins in the US

A botnet comprised of about 50,000 infected computers has been waging a war against U.S. government Web sites and causing headaches for businesses in the U.S. and South Korea.

The attack started Saturday, and security experts have credited it with knocking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's (FTC's) Web site offline for parts of Monday and Tuesday. Several other government Web sites have also been targeted, including the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

"The DOT has been experiencing network incidents since this past weekend. We are working with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team [US-CERT] at this time," a DOT spokeswoman said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of the Treasury confirmed that the Treasury's Web site had been hit with a denial-of-service attack. "We're working with our service provider to mitigate the impact," she said.

A spokeswoman for the FTC could not say what caused the outage at that agency's Web site, and the US-CERT did not return calls seeking comment.

Other targets have included banking Web sites in Korea, U.S. Bancorp, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of State, the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense, the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the Washington Post, according to security researchers studying the incident.

The attack, while powerful, is not particularly sophisticated and appears to be more of a nuisance than a threat to security. It uses a variety of well-known distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that try to overwhelm Web sites with useless requests and make them unavailable for legitimate users, security experts say. Most of the targeted sites appeared to be working normally on Tuesday.

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