Hackers say they'll take off New Year's

Two hacker groups give 'props' to Uncle Sam - but of course they hack sites to do it

Two hacking groups have struck again, defacing several Web pages around the Internet. This time, however, they have a message for others looking to circumvent security on the Net: Don't hack over the New Year's weekend.

"STOP HACKING FOR ONE DAY, FROM 31th DECEMBER 1999 TO 1st JANUARY 2000," read a one-line message that one group, using the handle Verb0, inserted into several sites, including online games site Echelon Entertainment, on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Hackers In Paradise, a group that has claimed responsibility for defacing more than 30 sites, including chat site Talk City's main page, put up a Web page calling on other hackers not to hack over the New Year's weekend. "Hackers in Paradise Will NOT Be Defacing Web Pages From At least Dec 31 to Jan 2!" stated a defaced page that the HiP put in the place of The Geosoft Network's member log-in page. "We Can't Speak For Any Other Groups Or Individuals, But It Is Our Hope That Others Will Also Abstain From Defacing, Until The Y2K Hysteria Has Settled Down."

The page had been fixed by Wednesday morning, but hacking-scene follower Attrition.org posted a mirror of the site.

The two defacements seem to validate a novel request that the Clinton administration made last week, albeit in an ironic way. The Administration put out a plea to hackers not to test US security systems during the end of the year. "Hopefully (hackers) will recognise we're going to have enough things going on that (New Year's) weekend that this will not be a particularly good weekend to demonstrate the need for more information security," said John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

Many hacking groups -- and some security experts -- consider penetrating networks and finding security holes to be in the Internet community's best interest by forcing companies to beef up the security of their networks and protect their users as a result.

Not on year 2000 weekend, said Koskinen. "If you want to, in fact, make those points, my hope is (you'll) make them following weekend," when year 2000 confusion is expected to have subsided, he said.

The plea seems to be working, at least for this group. "Several Weeks Back a Government Official Politely Asked Defacers Not To Deface Web Sites On 1/1/2000," said the Web page. "We Feel, This Is A Reasonable Request."

While the Clinton Administration's request seemed aimed primarily at serious network intruders rather than those who deface Web pages, the proclamation may come as some small comfort. One major concern of authorities is that confusion during the century date change could mask a wide range of malicious anti-US activity, including possible computer-based attacks by hostile nations or guerrillas.

Michael Vatis, the FBI agent who serves as the nation's top "cyber-cop", said last week that the interagency outfit he heads -- the National Infrastructure Protection Center -- would be on alert although it had no hard evidence of any planned attacks.

"It's natural to expect there might be people doing stupid things with computers," he said, in reference to the potential for cyber attacks timed to exploit any high-tech confusion sparked by the century date change.

Moreover, the groups that are conscientiously avoiding the Y2K weekend are most likely in the minority, said Brian Martin, an administrator at Attrition.org, also known by the handle "Jericho". "We have talked with a lot of (hackers), and we get the feeling that there will be a race to be the first to hack in the New Year," he said. "There will be hacks -- just no more or less than usual."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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