Hack attacks on rise in Asia

© 2002 BBC

Thursday, 7th November 2002 [Excerpt] - Hackers based in Indonesia and Malaysia have been launching digital attacks on neighbouring countries, say computer security experts. October, the month in which a bomb exploded on the Indonesian island of Bali, has seen heightened cyber attacks in South East Asia and Oceania, according to a report from security firm mi2g.

South Korea, Australia, China, Taiwan and Japan have been the victims of hundreds of hack attacks causing millions of pounds worth of damage.

"The number of attacks were rising before the Bali bombing but carried on escalating afterwards and didn't let-up," said mi2g chairman DK Matai.

At the same time, Indonesian and Malaysian hackers have been advising some of their native country's online players on how to shore up their defences.

"Pro-Islamic groups are conducting friendly hacking and if they identify vulnerabilities on pro-Islamic businesses or organisations systems they leave messages suggesting ways to improve security," said Mr Matai.


So far pro-Islamic hackers have been operating on a one-way street with no anti-Islamic backlash but Mr Matai predicts that could change.

"So far there is no evidence of a backlash but historically hack attacks have been about attack and counter-attack," he said.

"I don't think this one-sided (cyberwar) will last long. Because of the economic damage there will be a backlash against Indonesia and Malaysia," he said.

The motivation of a group called the Malaysian Hackers Association appears to be political, leaving messages calling on the UK and the US to stop attacks on Muslims.

Economic damage

The so-called Medan Hackers from Indonesia have been targeting systems in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China and Thailand as well as some internal ones.

Other than businesses, it is mainly academic and government agencies that have been targeted and the damage has been huge.

China has suffered estimated economic damage of up to $865m since the beginning of the year. Australia has lost as much as $309m and South Korea $449m.

In October alone, the digital attacks are estimated to have caused $20m worth of damage in Japan, $67m in Australia and $23m in Taiwan.

"The high economic value targets in the West are not so easy to hit but in South East Asia regimes about vulnerability patching are not as solid," said Mr Matai.

Overall in October, viruses such as Bugbear did more economic damage - around $2bn - than digital attacks which came in at between $886m and $1.07bn.

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