Experts had warned that the U.S. was poorly defended against and ill-prepared for a major cyber offensive. It turns out they were right.
Attacks against U.S. government sites occurring on July 4 are just now being revealed to the public eye. The attacks took down the Treasury Department, the Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission, and the Transportation Department websites over the weekend. This week, outages have continued as the attackers show no signs of relenting.
South Korea has also been targeted. The attacks on South Korea's government sites began on Tuesday. The attacks affected South Korea's presidential Blue House and the Defense Ministry, and some banking sites, among others.
The U.S. government believes North Korean or pro-Pyongyang forces are responsible for the attacks. They are refusing to officially discuss the attacks, but numerous sources have confirmed the attacks are severe and ongoing. Speaking to a group of South Korean lawmakers, South Korea's National Intelligence Service stated Wednesday that it believes that North Korea or North Korean sympathizer in the south "were behind" the attacks.
In the U.S., the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team is working with organizations to try to fight the attacks. Spokeswoman Amy Kudwa states that it has "advised (the agencies) of steps to take to help mitigate against such attacks."
Using a denial of service approach -- killing websites by sending millions of requests to them, overloading the servers -- the attacks follow many previous ones. The perpetrators of the attacks apparently used a computer virus, which infected many computers worldwide, to create a botnet. This silent botnet was turned on over the weekend and began sending vast quantities of requests to the target sites. The attacks have been much lengthier than a typical denial-of-service assault, much bolder, and more sophisticated.
The FTC site was down Sunday and Monday. The Transportation Web site was "100 percent down" for two days, according to Ben Rushlo, director of Internet technologies at Keynote Systems a company that monitors web outages.