A dire warning from the FBIs Internet security unit about potential large-scale attacks on U.S. Web sites and ISPs caused a stir in the security community Tuesday, but so far there has been little attack activity of note.
The FBIs National Infrastructure Protection Center, known as NIPC, on Monday night issued an alert warning that it had "credible, but nonspecific information that wide-scale hacker attacks against U.S. websites and Internet service providers are being planned." The agency apparently received word from its counterparts in Europe that an attack was imminent.
The warning evokes memories of the distributed denial-of-service attacks in early 2000 that brought down several high-profile Web sites, as well as of the fears of such attacks last September.
However, so far there have only been a few isolated reports of traffic spikes at some ISPs early Tuesday morning, but no indications of widespread problems, experts said.
"We did not see any signs of increased attack volume," said Don DeBolt, director of operations and manager of Counterpane Internet Security Inc.s security operations center outside Washington. Counterpane performs real-time security monitoring of large-scale networks. "We checked around and our sources state that the FBI feels the attacks are over. Also, the attacks were very focused in nature targeting a small number of data centers."
Likewise, Riptech Inc., an Alexandria, Va., company that also does security monitoring, said it had seen no significant increase in attacks.
The NIPC warning said that the attacks might originate in Western Europe. Government information security officials for some time—and especially since Sept. 11—have been very vocal about their belief that cyberterrorism is a real threat.
Many people in the security community privately express doubts that the kind of organized, crippling attack from overseas that the government warns of is likely to occur any time soon.
"I dont think were quite as vulnerable as [government officials] say we are," said one security executive who asked to remain anonymous. "Im a bit more optimistic."