Hack attack on capitalism... not likely

It is unlikely that Tuesday's online activities will be particularly high-tech

Threats of computer attacks on British financial institutions to coincide with Tuesday's WTO demonstrations in Seattle were played down by experts today.

Speculation that anti-capitalist activists will organise Internet demonstrations and cyber attacks on British companies were dismissed as unlikely although some disruption is expected. During the summer, activist groups rioted against capitalism in London.

Security consultant Ian Johnston-Bryden of Oceanus Security says that although Britain's banking organisations have all received threats of cyber-attacks, it hasn't caused alarm. "I don't think that much will happen off the back of it," he says. "You don't say to someone 'I'm going to hack your system. Real hackers are intelligent individual and are not into making things harder for themselves."

One ex-hacker, who requested anonymity, thinks it unlikely that Tuesday's online activities will be particularly high-tech but advised against complacency: "To be fair, they could have deliberately tried to appear naive to get themselves less attention from the authorities." The hacker points out however that it doesn't take too much expertise to cause trouble: "They could potentially ruin a day by just jamming every phone by ringing them. They could bring down a PBX in a similar fashion to the match tickets for the England -- Scotland matches. Sometimes the most primitive methods of attack such as filling someone's voice mail quota or sending a 40,000 document to a fax-machine have the most damaging potential."

But predictions of low tech attacks were challenged by a spokesman from underground activist publication, Schnews, who is confident Tuesday's street demos will be supported by computer activism designed to slow things down: "You can expect denial of service sort of stuff mainly, although they seem to be even more into that sort of thing in America," the spokesman said. A UK site was also recently set up to promtote a "virtual sit-in" on November 30. An activity which the Schnews spokesperson interprets as some sort of denial of service activity.

A representative of the Manchester J18 organisation which organised the protests last June, who also asked not to be named, says the media blew up the stories about computer attacks on financial institutions. "All the stuff about the Internet being used to organise June the 18th and loads of cyber attacks was just media hype. It's possible that there will be more online activity because it is more US organised."

Tomorrow's protests on the streets of Seattle will also be streamed live over the Internet at a number of Web sites .