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U.S. rolls out cyberattack warning system

Date: January 29, 2004
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government has rolled out a "cyber alert" system to warn computer users about viruses, worms and other online threats, two days after the "MyDoom" worm snarled e-mail traffic worldwide.

Internet users who sign up will receive e-mail warnings about new worms like "MyDoom," as well as general tips about how to make their computers more secure, officials with the Homeland Security Department said on Wednesday.
Officials said they hope to slow the spread of cyber attacks by making the online public more aware of the specific weaknesses they exploit.

"The intent is for this information to be made available to the public to receive the widest and most appropriate distribution," said Amit Yoran, director of Homeland Security's cyber security division.
Online attacks like SoBig and Slammer have shut down automatic teller machines, interfered with emergency-dispatch systems and knocked nearly the entire country of South Korea offline. Security experts say future attacks could disable power plants, hospitals or other "critical infrastructure."

Experts say MyDoom accounted for 1 in 9 e-mail messages over the past few days.
Homeland Security's warning system is intended to augment alerts from private security companies like Symantec Corp., Yoran said. Unlike the department's terrorism warning system, it will not offer colour-coded threat levels.

Computer users can sign up for the alert system at (http://www.us-cert.gov), Yoran said. Warnings will be sent by e-mail and also posted on the Web site, he said.
E-mail warnings will contain an electronic signature to verify their authenticity, he said.

One senator said the system would actually make cyberattacks more damaging.
"If I were a betting man, I'd put a few dollars down that the next virus that clogs computer networks is going to be transmitted through an e-mail that looks like one of these DHS e-mail alerts," SenatorCharles Schumer said in a statement.

The agency could better contain cyberattacks by working with Internet providers to locate infected computers and take them offline, the New York Democrat added.

Original article

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