A new type of public service announcement featuring one of the Internet's founding fathers is targeting hackers who might consider cyber-retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks their patriotic duty.
Some pro-U.S. hackers have already vandalized Middle Eastern Web sites, and many technology experts anticipate the Internet to become a theater of future international conflicts.
Although disruption has so far been slight, the FBI is concerned that a surge of hacking attacks and viruses could seriously degrade Internet performance.
Vint Cerf, who helped develop the Internet's basic communications tools in the 1970s, said hackers "do not contribute in any constructive way to dealing with the many problems our global civilization faces."
Keeping the Internet smoothly functioning, he said, "will at least offer a way for (the) collective expression of views and perhaps better understanding."
Cerf was producing the television and online spots Wednesday with Parry Aftab, a leading expert on Internet safety. "The people who think they are protecting us (by hacking) are hurting the one thing that will help us heal," Aftab said.
Two or three spots, each lasting 15 or 30 seconds, will be produced as part of the campaign. They will be made available to television stations and online portals.
Aftab said she has yet to receive commitments from specific outlets, but plans to tap the distribution network of the Ad Council. Since the attacks, the council has launched ads promoting racial diversity and encouraging parents to talk with kids about them.
Hacking attacks so far have involved mostly low-level defacements. Security experts at Vigilinx said hackers have targeted sites on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban or containing Afghan news.
"It's hacking under the guise of false patriotism," said Chip Mesec of SecurityFocus.com in San Mateo, Calif.
Security experts say the severity could escalate when expected U.S. military strikes begin on suspected terrorist organizations.
The type of attacks feared on a broad scale, known as denial of service, jam sites with fake traffic and could ground major Web sites to a halt, the way hackers disrupted Yahoo!, CNN and other major sites in February 2000. Israeli and Palestinian hackers have also used denial-of-service attacks to move their conflict online.
Although some hackers have been openly encouraging online attacks in discussion groups and chat rooms, one German hacking group appealed for calm.
Chaos Computer Club's Andy Mueller-Maguhn, who also sits on an Internet oversight board that Cerf heads, warned that cutting the Net's communications channels would only "provide a stronger foundation for ignorance."
Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press. September 26, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved.