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Cyber Attack!

BBC’s Panorama exclusively interviews Manilla virus writer

With the world still reeling from the effects of "The Love Bug" computer virus, which infected millions of computers and cost billions of pounds, the Panorama programme investigated the secret activities of the "script kiddies" who create the viruses and what motivates a "hacker"

  • 15 million people now have access to the Internet & this figure is set to double this year. 
  • Global computer attacks are now, more than ever, a real possibility with security issues being placed on the back burner in favour of functionality. 
  • ‘Are virus writers merely malicious hackers or crusaders for security?’

Virus Writer questioned about Love Bug…….

Panorama exclusively spoke to Michael Buen, one of the young Filipino men suspected of being behind The Love Bug virus, regarded as a ‘highly sophisticated’ virus in terms of its devastating delivery, spread from a Manila slum to thousands of organisations across the globe.

Downtime & lost data caused by the virus have put estimated costs of the Love Bug virus at $8 billion. 

Michael Buen’s story was one of poverty in a Manila slum.  Educated at a local computer college his virus writing skills were detailed in his own CV he had sent to virus companies worldwide earlier this year.  He advised these companies that if he did not gain a ‘stable job’ within the computer industry he would send a crippling global virus. Whether he was personally involved in the Love Bug virus is a matter for speculation – Buen’s lawyer certainly was not permitting him to answer such direct questions!!

The Parliament of the Philippines has now passed legislation to make cybercrime illegal but as this is not retrospective Act it is unlikely the Love Bug authors will be punished.

Welsh Teenage Credit Card Hacker …..

Panorama also talked to Raphael Gray, the Welsh teenager who is facing charges for downloading 26,000 credit card numbers using his own PC. He created a simple computer programme which enabled him to pinpoint at random security flaws in nine on-line retail sites where thousands of credit card numbers of customers had been stored.

His email to the online retailers warning them of their security flaws remained unanswered.  Gray then created his own site to post all credit card numbers up.

To highlight lapsed security in UK business Gray says that on arrest he was taken to a local police station who had printed their password for the ‘Custody Database’ and pinned above the PC.  The password was, of course, ‘custody’.  Gray claims he could have sat down at the PC & bailed himself out!

Elite Hacker Sir Dystic – Cult of the Dead Cow

The programme also contained an exclusive interview with the San Francisco based Cult of the Dead Cow, considered the elite of the hacker community, who can literally take over your computer from thousands of miles away.

Sir Dystic, infamous author of ‘Back Orifice’, when asked if he believed his actions as a hacker are malicious he replied ‘It’s not malicious to show a faulty seat belt in a car.  The Internet should be viewed as a dangerous place and not just a neat toy.’

NASA – the biggest prize for hackers

NASA has reportedly received ½ million attacks in the past year.  Panorama reveals that astronauts working for US Space Administration Nasa, including British-born Dr Michael Foale were put at risk by computer hackers during a 1997 Shuttle mission.

The Nasa computer system that constantly monitors the heartbeat, pulse and medical condition of astronauts was interfered with just as the shuttle was attempting to dock with Russian counterparts deep in space. Nasa had to resort to communicating to their astronauts via the Russian space station Mir.

Roberta Gross, Inspector General at Nasa told Panorama, "We had an activity at a Nasa centre where a hacker was overloading our systems... to such an extent that it interfered with communications between the Nasa centre, some medical communications and the astronaut aboard the shuttle."

When asked by reporter Jane Corbin if this was a critical moment, Gross replied: "Well Nasa has a lot of fail-safes and it makes sure that there's not just one way of communicating so the transmission ultimately went through... but it shows the potential that hackers have for doing some real damage to Nasa's mission and astronaut safety."

Astronaut Dr Michael Foale said he was intrigued by the programme as he had been unaware that there had been a problem.

The revelation from Nasa that hackers successfully entered their system during a space mission gives an indication of the scale of the 'hacker' problem for government agencies throughout the world. In the past year alone Nasa has experienced over half a million cyber attacks.

"You take Nasa's missions and you take its vulnerabilities, then you can see how serious it can be... Everybody knows if there's a problem at Houston..., a potential vulnerability or someone is able to supersede the system that we set up, that's dangerous", Gross comments.

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