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Slammer Damage May Top $1 Billion

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Digital attacks, including worms and viruses, have caused more than $8 billion in damages worldwide in
January alone, according to a report just released by a U.K.-based security

January attacks are at a record level, numbering close to 20,000 in just the
first month of a year that analysts predict will see a widespread increase
in security incidents.

At the present growth rate, 2003 is likely to be hit with more than 180,000
digital attacks worldwide, according to Mi2g’s estimates. That’s a big leap
from 2002’s numbers, which rang in at 87,525.

Last weekend’s Slammer worm, which slowed or halted
email, business and even ATM transactions around the globe, accounted for damages of $945 million to $1.15 billion, according to analysts at London-based
Mi2g Ltd. This makes Slammer the ninth most-destructive worm or virus on record, Mi2g said.

“Slammer’s impact on emergency services, the Internet backbone, airlines
and financial services was short-lived but remarkable given the absense of
any destructive payload,” says DK Matai, chairman and CEO of the security
firm. “In the next few months Slammer variants could emerge which are
capable of being used in a blended threat scenario alongside physical
attacks by radicals. This could achieve a significant multiplier effect
given the dependence and demonstrable lack of preparedness of the globally
networked society.”

Slammer, widely seen as an omen of worms to come this year, wreaked
havoc for three days from Europe to North America and Asia. The worm hit the
wild on Saturday, Jan. 25 and was quelled Monday, after network and security
administrators around the globe installed the necessary patch that closed
the hole the worm was crawling through.

The worm takes advantage of a known vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.’s SQL
2000 Web servers. Microsoft released a patch for it last summer, but
obviously many companies and home users failed to install the patch, leaving
their systems open for attack.

The worm, which doesn’t damage the infected machine or delete or change
files, generates massive amounts of network packets, overloading servers and
routers, slowing down network traffic — sometimes bringing it to a complete
stop under the weight of the attack.

Security analysts say they are not expecting any further spikes caused by
the Slammer worm. Various governments, which reportedly include the U.S. and
South Korea, are now tracking down whoever released the worm in the wild.
Initial investigations are pointing to the worm originating in China.

The report from Mi2g noted that Slammer interfered with emergency telephone
systems, and disrupted five of the 13 root DNS servers, online airline
ticketing systems, and credit card and ATM services.

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