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State Dept: Beware anti-war cyber attacks

By Eli J. Lake (UPI) | State Department analysts are warning U.S. businesses to be on the lookout for attacks on their mainframes related to opposition to the new U.S.-led war against the Iraqi regime.

"The start of the military campaign against Iraq triggered a wave of digital attacks," a warning Monday from the State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council said.

OSAC, created in 1985, is a branch of U.S. Diplomatic Security that shares terror and cyber warnings with U.S. businesses that operate abroad.

The Web site warning continues: "These digital attacks are causing business disruptions through online vandalism of commerce portals and computers belonging to businesses. Government and military systems are also being targeted, but in smaller numbers."

OSAC's warning says a coordinated cyber attack began on March 17 after President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq.

The attacks have been generated by hackers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France and Eastern Europe, as well as Brazil and Mexico, the site says.

The site says the "economic impact of anti-war digital attacks is taking a toll on businesses through customer service interruption (denial of service), malicious e-mail (messages) and viruses, data and credit card piracy, identity theft and loss of reputation."

One of the first targets was the Web site for the Iraqi National Congress, a U.S.-supported umbrella group for Iraqi rebel organizations. A press release from the organization says, "The Web site of the Iraqi National Congress has been down for a number of days due to a sustained and coordinated attack by Saddam's hackers. This 'denial of service' is clearly not the work of amateurs."

The warning also specifies that a computer worm that destroys a computer's anti-virus software and might crash the Microsoft Word program could be disseminate through e-mail messages with the headings: "Spy pics;" "GO USA!!!;" "G.W. Bush animation;" and "Is USA always number one?"

Another cause for alarm is the specific threat from a Malaysia- based computer hacker who uses the moniker "Melhacker." In an interview in the November issue of Computer World, he threatened to unleash what he called a "mega worm" if the United States attacked Iraq.

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Eli J. Lake is UPI's State Department Correspondent. Comment by clicking here.

© 2003, UPI