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January 18, 1989

UNIX USER GROUP DEMANDS ANTIDOTES TO ATTACKS FROM NETWORK VIRUSES

By CBR Staff Writer

The US Unix trade association /usr/group, Santa Clara, California is calling for stronger measures to be taken in response to the recent rash of virus attacks that affected Unix based system installations at the end of last year. According to the group’s technical director, Frederick Clegg, open networks, whilst providing a whole range of powerful tools for users, are also fertile medium for viruses. As Unix has unparalleled ability to serve as a host for such networks the group is urging systems managers to apply security tools to prevent these networks being compromised, and vendors who market systems with known weaknesses to pass on fixes to customers. Sun Microsystems Inc has recently undertaken such a programme, sending out repair kits to users in the US to protect vulnerable systems, and has promised that all future releases will have added security features built in. The /usr/group is also critical of industry attitudes that seem to condone hackers’ attempts to undermine computer security, and calls for a centralised effort to enhance security standards and communicate during computer emergencies. In particular the costs of virus attack are highlighted. In financial terms these can run into millions of dollars – for example lost computer time and clearing up efforts are estimated to have cost $96m in the recent Arpanet ‘worm’ attack, according to the Computer Virus Industry Association. /usr/group is to sponsor a series of presentations to highlight all these issues at UniForum 1989, in San Francisco at the end of February. Hard on the heels of these intrusions, a Computer Emergency Response Team, CERT, has been set up by the US Department of Defense to deal with virus attacks. In view of all this, /usr/group should be pleased to hear that a recent invader of unclassified computers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California has now been identified and might be prosecuted, according to the FBI. The hacker, who gained access to some of Lawrence Livermore’s 800 computers during the first week of December was traced with the help of colleagues in the computing community, according to Lab spokeswoman Jean Madden.

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