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Weekend-Long Cyber Attack Targets Top U.S. Government, Press, and Business Sites

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, July 8 2009

The United States was under attack over the July 4th holiday weekend. Didn't notice? That's because it was a cyber attack. According to reports, distributed denial-of-service attacks were launched against dozens of major American websites, including those of the White House, State Department, Nasdaq, New York Stock Exchange, Washington Post, Federal Trade Commission, Secret Service, Department of Transportation, and the Washington Post. More than a dozen high-profile South Korean websites were also targeted, and intelligence officials in that country are blaming North Korea for the DDOS offensive, which was said to have called into action more than 20,000 zombie computer in and out of South Korea. DDOS attacks are death by a thousand cuts; in bulk, repeated attempts to connect to a site block legitimate efforts to reach it. The White House is staying more or less mum on whether it was indeed a target. But the event is no doubt prompting some deserved Maalox moments in cyber security circles.

A massive computer takedown like the one being reported could be damaging to government and industry if it goes on for very long. And what's particularly troubling about this weekend's events is that the effects of the attacks seem to have persisted for at least three days. Big-name sites like WhiteHouse.gov are hosted on a plethora of redundant servers sprinkled all over the globe for just this reason, and the White House's limited response to the event has been to say 'We get slammed by cyber malice all the time. Just another day in the White House.' But lesser sites like the Department of Transportation's were indeed knocked out of service.

President Obama unveiled a revamped cyber security plan at the very end of May, but the U.S. is still awaiting the appointment of a cyber security chief.

Related coverage: AP, New York Times, and Washington Post.