Overall Web Site Defacements Rise During 2001

by Steve Gold, © 2002 PostNewsweek Tech Media

Wednesday, 9th January 2002 - The latest figures from Mi2g show that Web site defacements increased around the world during 2001, despite a brief drop-off in site attacks in the weeks after Sept. 11.

The information technology security group says that ".com" domains accounted for almost 30 percent (8,736) of all Web site defacements (30,388), during the year.

The next most frequently defaced site domain names were China's ".cn" and Taiwan's ".tw," which together accounted for 2,653 Web site defacements, or almost 9 percent of the global total.

mi2g's report adds that ".gov" domains experienced a 37 percent increase in Web site defacements - from 181 to 248 - during the year, while ".mil" domains saw a 128 percent increase in defacements during the same period.

Similar increases were seen in the ".il" domain name groups during 2001 - up 220 percent to 413 defacements during the year - which Mi2g says is probably due to political attacks on Israeli sites.

In India and Pakistan, the numbers of site defacements increased by even higher percentages – India's ".in" domain defacements rose by 205 percent to include 250 sites, while Pakistan's ".pk" domain defacements increased 300 percent to 82 during the year.

Even worse was the increase in site defacements on sites within the "gov.uk" top level domain, where mi2g saw a 378 percent increase - from 9 in 2000 to 43 in 2001.

The upward trend was reversed briefly after Sept. 11, the consultancy reported last week. mi2g said Jan. 3 that there were 815 Web site defacements occurred during September, down from the year's monthly high of 3,853 in May. However, defacements soared to 2,700 in October, fell back to 1,632 in November and rose again to 3,038 during December.

mi2g says that intellectual challenge, disgruntled employees, politics - including ideological differences - and criminal activities were the main reasons cited for the Web site attacks.

DK Matai, mi2g's chairman, told Newsbytes the reason for the rising numbers of defaced Web sites is that people now take to the Internet, rather than the streets, to lodge their protests.

"What we are seeing is that the sovereignty of the state is being challenged by the sovereignty of the individual," he said, adding that Web users increasingly use anonymous Internet servers to hide behind to stage their site attacks.

Based on his firm's research, Matai sees the Web site defacement problem getting worse during the next year.

Global Web site defacements, he said, are indicative of the general conflicts prevalent in the world at large.

"2002 may be a year in which politically motivated attacks, both physical and electronic, could complement strikes from disgruntled employees and organized crime," he said.

mi2g says it has been compiling its research since 1996, using a combination of consultants scanning the Web and talking with IT security professionals about security issues.

The firm also administers its own site defacement database, which is updated with information drawn continuously from the Web.

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