Daily Report Thursday, February 8, 2007

Daily Highlights

Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator −− in charge of keeping power flowing smoothly among Xcel Energy Inc. and other regional utilities −− says that as of noon Tuesday, February 6, 15,000 megawatts of power were flowing through the grid, with only 600 megawatts in reserve. (See item 2)
IDG News Service reports online hackers briefly disrupted service on at least two of the 13 root servers that are used to direct traffic on the Internet, in an attack which began Tuesday, February 6; this was the most significant attack against the root servers since an October 2002 DDoS attack. (See item 34)

Information Technology and Telecommunications Sector

31. February 07, Reuters — Cell phones silent as Mexico's biggest network fails. Millions of Mexicans had their cell phone conversations put on hold for much of Tuesday, February 6, after a wireless network belonging to the world's third richest man, tycoon Carlos Slim, temporarily crashed. A technical fault in western Mexico City saturated the Telcel cell phone network, Mexico's largest and owned by Slim's telecommunications giant America Movil, the company said on Tuesday. Telcel has 40 million users across the country. Worst affected were those in the vast capital and its surroundings, where most of the company's customers are located. Service began returning hours later and was 90 percent functional by late afternoon.
Source: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2091424,00.asp

32. February 07, Washington Technology — DHS still grappling with IT management. Nearly four years after it was formed, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to struggle in managing, integrating and securing its IT systems, Inspector General Richard L. Skinner testified at a congressional hearing Tuesday, February 6. “Integrating the IT systems, networks and capabilities of the various legacy agencies to form a single infrastructure for effective communications and information exchange remains one of DHS’ biggest challenges,” Skinner told the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security. In the IT realm, the department has made progress in eliminating redundant firewalls, replacing hardware encryption devices and combining operations centers, Skinner said. But component agencies have not yet aligned their programs for information security with departmentwide programs.
Skinner's Testimony: http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/testimony/OIGtm_RLS_020607.pd f
Source: http://www.washingtontechnology.com/news/1_1/daily_news/30079−1.html?topic=homeland

33. February 06, eWeek — Testers shine light on CA−Vista vulnerability. Vulnerability
researchers at penetration testing software maker Core Security claim that a well−known vulnerability existing in CA's BrightStor backup software can be exploited when the program is running on Microsoft Windows Vista, essentially defeating the purpose of the operating system's much−publicized security features. Officials with Core announced the flaw at the ongoing RSA Conference. The issue illustrates the fact that unless third−party application vendors go to great lengths to integrate their products with Vista's security features, the technologies cannot take advantage of the operating system's malware−defense tools, Core officials said. Core contends that a previously disclosed vulnerability in CA's BrightStor ARCserve Backup software, dubbed CVE−2007−0169, can be exploited to compromise systems running the new Vista operating system. By exploiting the buffer overflow vulnerability in versions 9.01 through 11.5 of the CA software, along with its Enterprise Backup 10.5 and CA Server/Business Protection Suite r2 products, attackers could remotely execute arbitrary code on computers and potentially gain access to other systems, the company said. To craft an attack that takes advantage of the flaw, hackers need only manipulate slightly exploits designed to attack the same problem on systems running Microsoft's earlier Windows XP and 2000 operating systems, Core maintains.
Source: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2090825,00.asp

34. February 06, IDG News Service — Hackers slow Internet root servers with attack. Online attackers have briefly disrupted service on at least two of the 13 "root" servers that are used to direct traffic on the Internet. The attack, which began Tuesday, February 6, at about 5:30 a.m. EST, was the most significant attack against the root servers since an October 2002 DDoS attack, said Ben Petro, senior vice president of services with Internet service provider Neustar. Root servers manage the Internet's DNS, used to translate Web addresses such as Amazon.com into the numerical IP addresses used by machines. The attack appeared to have been launched by a botnet, Petro said. "Two of the root servers suffered badly, although they did not completely crash; some of the others also saw heavy traffic," said John Crain, chief technical officer with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The two hardest−hit servers are maintained by the Department of Defense and ICANN. The botnet briefly overwhelmed these servers with useless requests, but did not disrupt Internet service, Petro said. By 10:30 a.m. EST, Internet service providers were able to filter enough of the traffic from the botnet machines that traffic to and from the root servers was essentially back to normal.
Source: http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/02/06/HNrootserverattack _1.html

35. February 06, IDG News Service — Texas, Minnesota eye move to ODF. Texas and Minnesota may become the second and third U.S. states to adopt Open Document Format for XML (ODF) as the standard file format for government documents instead of the file format that Microsoft uses in its Office 2007 software suite. Two separate bills up for legislative consideration in each state propose to mandate the use of an open, XML−based file format that is "interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications; fully published and available royalty−free; implemented by multiple vendors; and controlled by an open industry organization with a well−defined inclusive process for evolution of the standard," according to the Minnesota House of Representatives bill. The Texas bill uses similar wording to describe the file format the states intend to support. Though the bills do not specifically name ODF as the document format under consideration, the explanation of what each state wants to move to seems to fit the standard. Proponents of ODF view the bills as another victory for the file format and another step closer to giving Microsoft Office the best competition it's had in years.
Source: http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/02/06/HNtexasminnodf_1.h tml

36. February 06, Computer World — Study: Weak passwords really do help hackers. Left online for 24 days to see how hackers would attack them, four Linux computers with weak passwords were hit by some 270,000 intrusion attempts −− about one attempt every 39 seconds, according to a study conducted by a researcher at the University of Maryland. Among the key findings: Weak passwords really do make hackers' jobs much easier. The study also found that improved selection of usernames and associated passwords can make a big difference in whether attackers get into someone's computer. The study was led by Michel Cukier, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an affiliate of the university's Clark School Center for Risk and Reliability and Institute for Systems Research. His goal was to look at how hackers behave when they attack computer systems −− and what they do once they gain access. Using software tools that help hackers guess usernames and passwords, the study logged the most common words hackers tried to use to log into the systems. Cukier and two graduate students found that most attacks were conducted by hackers using dictionary scripts, which run through lists of common usernames and passwords in attempts to break into a computer.
Source: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9010540&intsrc=hm_list

37. February 05, Associated Press — CDC Website attacked by virus. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are concerned about a different kind of virus −− a computer one. Hackers broke into the CDC's Website last week and planted a virus that could have infected visitors' computers. CDC officials said the hacking was concentrated to the agency's podcast site −− which has audio and video clips on a variety of public health topics −− and they do not think any sensitive information was compromised. The podcast site will be down for a few days.
Source: http://www.ledger−enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/news/local /16626841.htm