Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Chapter 6


Internet warning system attacked
CERT Coordination Center site inaccessible

By Robert Lemos

May 23 — Unknown attackers inundated the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center with data Wednesday, cutting off the public’s access to the organization largely responsible for warning others on the Internet about computer-security threats.

THE ATTACK BEGAN around 9 a.m. PDT Tuesday and continued to stall
traffic to the organization’s Web site Wednesday.

“Our connection to the Internet has been largely saturated by this activity,” Ian Finlay, an Internet security analyst for the CERT Coordination Center, said in a recorded statement.

“The Web site may be unavailable until the attack begins to

Although the attack has prevented anyone from accessing the
security advisories on CERT’s Web site, the Center said it will still be able to
get the word out on critical alerts.

“We have alternate means to issue advisories as it becomes necessary,” Finlay said in the statement.

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The Delta 757 swept down over the snow-covered peaks of the Wasatch mountain range that borders the Salt Lake Valley on the east. Like all modern airlines, they had knuckled under to the feminist movement in the mid-seventies, and fired any stewardess that was even remotely attractive. First class was no exception; the stewardesses with longevity always bid for those positions. The uninspiring result was that as we approached our touchdown, the announcement was strikingly similar to a lecture my mother had once given me.

I was in Salt Lake because Doc was here. At the age of six, Doc had started taking television sets apart. He never actually put one back together and made it work until he was eight. At the age of twelve, he heard that surgeons in Vietnam were experimenting with electric shock to anesthetize wounded soldiers. He promptly built himself a machine, and had half of the children in the neighborhood sleeping peacefully before they apprehended him. At twenty-two he was working in Silicon Valley for the defense industry. Never one to be bothered by petty office politics, he had authored a memo describing how stupid the company's system was, pointing out several design flaws, and giving ideas for improvement. Instead of passing it through channels, he dropped it off at the president's office. When the company did not act, he dropped a copy off at the competition's office. His memo was last seen at the Paris Air Show, being used by a French General to browbeat several company executives.

Lately, Doc had been keeping out of the public's view, and out of harms way. In fact, to talk to him at all, I had to rent a helicopter. I found him alone, but not lonely, atop the Oquirrh Mountains west of Salt Lake City, on Nelson Peak. Rush week was coming up, and he had taken an engineering position, keeping the local television transmitters purring. As we came in for a landing, he was just zipping up, having relieved himself in the direction of the station management in the valley below.

When the rotor wash was manageable, I crouched down and made a dash across the hillside. "I thought you might want a pizza." I said, holding aloft a deep-dish thick crust Domino's Supreme.

"You were always kind of thoughtful." He said. His blond hair was whipping in the wind, but he didn’t seem to notice it.

"Hang tight, and I'll get the pilot and the beer. I wasn't sure I'd find you."

"I'm not headed anywhere." He said accepting the pizza, and sniffing at the box.

My pilot shut down, but declined the offer of pizza and beer. He said he would rather just polish his bird, and look around. So, six-pack in hand, I made my way back across the hillside.

Inside the sheet metal building that contained the transmitters, Doc cleared off a portion of his workbench to make room for the pizza and beer. The whole place hummed with electricity. The smell of ozone was strong inside the building. I expected to get shocked any second. Doc did not seem to mind. He’s just over six foot one with small love handles, glasses held together with duct tape, and an other-worldliness that says everything is all right with his world.

"Bit far from home aren't you?"

"Yup. Need some help." I said, biting into a slice.

"Afraid I'm broke." Doc said morosely.

"Not any more you aren't. Besides, that isn't the kind of help I need."

"I'm not broke?" He said with a surprised expression.

"Nope. I just deposited one hundred thousand dollars into your account." I told him.

"Who we killing?"

"That’s not the kind of help I need either."


"I just need you to throw together a couple of party favors for me. Nothing too fancy and I foot the bill for materials. It doesn't come out of your account. I recently came into a good deal of money."

It took about three beers to explain the circumstances to Doc. I left it up to him to fill in the particulars. When I got back into the chopper, I had his agreement to get off of the mountain as soon as the station could get someone up there to replace him. Pressing as my schedule might be, he would not simply walk off the job. He would meet me the next week in Idaho. I tried to give him fifteen thousand for parts and materials, but he would only take eight. When I asked him about this, he just said "Smith & Edwards." The pilot told me later that it was the name of the largest army surplus store in the western states. If you needed it, they had it. Finding it was something else again.

My next flight was on Northwest. They had an early morning flight I could catch that connected with a puddle jumper to the Brainerd Lakes area. With that in mind, I checked in to one of the airport hotels, and made my reservations. Getting a good night's sleep in Salt Lake was not a problem. The town is effectively dry. The local liquor laws must have been passed in the early eighteen hundreds. Each watering hole is effectively a state-run liquor store. The bar sells you setups for the price of a normal drink. You then have to walk over to the liquor outlet to buy mini-bottles for the price of a Chrysler Le Baron to complete the drink. To avoid this hassle, the locals join private "Locker" clubs. After paying his dues, the member places a bottle in his private locker for the bartender's use. Of course, no one ever brings a bottle, and the bottle that they didn’t bring never runs dry. Yet, somehow with all this hypocrisy, they managed to attract the winter Olympics. Wonders never cease.