December 1, 2004
Cyber Business Attacks
An article in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 30) discusses a new form of cybercrime in which businesses are attacked by competitors who seek to disable or disrupt websites through which so much commerce occurs. Hackers do not attack websites or release viruses just for the joy of testing computer network security, but rather are hired by competitors to disrupt businesses. The article discusses the indictment of Jay R. Echouafni, who arranged for a hacker attack on the website of a business who had rejected a deal he proposed (Echouafni is now a fugitive). The article notes:
The Internet's growth has led to a surge in cyber-crime, including identity theft and online fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigation ranks cyber-criminals as its third-biggest priority after terrorists and spies. The United Kingdom's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit has made more than 100 arrests related to major computer crimes since it was set up three years ago.
The U.S. Department of Justice employs about 38 attorneys in its computer-crime section, up from three a decade ago. About half focus on viruses and other computer intrusions. The toll of viruses on business, in terms of lost revenue and repair costs, could hit $17.5 billion this year, up from an estimated $13 billion in 2003, according to Computer Economics Inc., a research firm in Aliso Viejo, Calif.
It isn't known how much of that stems from financially motivated attacks, but law-enforcement officials say that their frequency is rising sharply. The growth in such attacks is driven by a new family of viruses that lets a person control large numbers of computers in order to, say, attack a corporate Web site.