20 June 2002



BBC News Online: Sci/Tech
Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK

Pro-Islamic hackers join forces

Tensions in Kashmir are mirrored on internet

There is mounting evidence that individual hacker groups connected by a pro-Islamic agenda are working together to carry out hack attacks, say experts.

Security firm mi2g says an alliance of anti-Israel, anti-US and anti-India groups are increasingly highlighting issues such as the Middle East conflict, the war on terrorism and the Kashmir stand-off as part of their destructive digital attacks.

At the height of the tensions between Pakistan and India over Kashmir in May, two groups (Unix Security Guards and World Fantabulous Defacers) carried out a total of 111 digital attacks on Indian educational and business sites.

Security firm mi2g said political and ideological motives were increasingly behind hack attacks.

Digital tensions

Hacktivist groups
USG (Unix Security Guards) - an anti-Israel alliance responsible for 87 overt attacks since May 2002
WFD (World's Fantabulous Defacers) - a Pakistani alliance of 12 member groups responsible for 445 overt attacks since November 2000
AIC (Anti-India Crew) - a Pakistani alliance founded in July 2001, responsible for 422 attacks to date

At a round table event in London to discuss the security threats in a post-11 September world, Chief Executive of mi2g, DK Matai, said hacktivism posed one of the biggest risks to business and government computer systems.

"Political motivation is an increasingly rising factor in digital attacks," he told delegates at the forum.

"The primary reason why web attacks are increasing is political tensions between Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan and China and Taiwan."

New viruses decreasing

Israel has suffered a barrage of hack attacks since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000.

An Egyptian hacker group has said it is behind the action. It began its activities shortly after 11 September.

Similar attacks happened during the Serbian conflict in 1999 when Nato and US Department of Defense networks were targeted by pro-Serbian hackers.

Despite the gloomy picture, the total number of new viruses has actually been decreasing since a peak in 1997, according to mi2g.

However, new viruses are causing more havoc because of the number of computers that are now networked together.

"When one catches a cold the entire global organisation catches it," said Mr Matai.