Wave of Digital Retaliation as War Starts
London, UK, 12:30 GMT 21 March 2003 – US, UK, Australian and South Korean online business interests have come under heavy digital attack over the last 24 hours. The start of the military campaign against Iraq yesterday is likely to contribute to March becoming the worst month for digital attacks ever since mi2g records began in 1995. Italy and Canada also appear to have been caught in the cross fire with abnormal instances of anti-war online damage.
Digital attacks are causing business interruption through vandalism of eCommerce portals and online computers belonging to businesses. Government and military systems are also being targeted but in smaller numbers. The attackers are originating from Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey from the Islamic world; France and Eastern Europe; and Brazil and Mexico from Latin America. The common motivation is anti-war and the different alignments include pro-Islamic sentiment, anti-US/UK/Israel feeling, anti-capitalist protest, humanitarian and environmental concern. The material uploaded to the compromised servers is sympathetic with the plight of Iraq and condemns the US/UK action.
“We have been observing the coupling between physical war and cyber warfare since March 1999 when the NATO-Serbia conflict began. We are expecting retaliatory digital attacks that cause economic disruption to escalate further. When civilian casualties mount as some bombs go astray or a sensitive interest is accidentally targeted such as the Chinese embassy incident in Belgrade, further cyber mayhem can be expected in the shape of digital attacks or fast spreading viruses and worms with political content,” said DK Matai, Executive Chairman, mi2g. “There is no doubt about the linkages between physical terrorism and waves of digital attacks that act as a barometer of negative sentiment. It should not come as a surprise if US, UK or Australian assets are attacked by terrorists anywhere in the world in the coming days and weeks. These attacks could be manifest through suicide bombings blended with digital attacks on communication systems or command and control attacks on critical economic infrastructure.”
The Bali bombing in October last year and the arrests of Moroccan and Pakistani alleged terrorists in Italy were both preceded by waves of digital attacks originating from Islamic majority countries.
The economic impact of anti-war digital attacks is taking a toll on businesses through customer service interruption (denial of service), data and credit card piracy, identity theft and loss of reputation. The economic damage is estimated to be between USD 2.1 to USD 2.6 Billion for the loss of productivity and cost of recovery for March 2003 alone.
The main operating system being targeted is Linux. One of the main pro-Islamic anti-war attacker groups – Unix Security Guards – is a macro-hacking group with members from Morocco, Egypt, Eastern Europe and Gulf countries. As a result, the number of attacks against Linux online systems has crossed Microsoft Windows in March. 71% of all digital attacks recorded in March are against Linux systems and only 24% are against Microsoft Windows.
The primary technical reasons for these adverse developments are both the huge network of online computers, which have not been patched appropriately, and the growing number of vulnerabilities for which the exploits are freely available on the Internet. The number of attacks in March has crossed 5,646 against US online interests, which is greater than the 4,365 attacks recorded against all other victims across the globe for the same period