Complex Networks Too Easy to Hack

Tuesday, 10 December 2002, 12:00 PM EST

Internet and telecommunications experts, here on Friday to discuss homeland security, said increasingly complex software operating systems and networks have made it easier than ever to disrupt U.S. communications systems.

At the same time, hackers don't need to be highly skilled to wreak havoc.

"Over time, we're getting very sophisticated attacks from morons," said Bill Hancock, chair of the cybersecurity focus group of the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council, which coordinates voluntary "best practices" to maintain a streamlined communications infrastructure.

NRIC members include Sprint PCS, AOL Time Warner, Verisign and WorldCom, among others.

In January, the FCC chartered NRIC to recommend ways for companies to thwart cyberattacks post-Sept. 11.

On Friday, NRIC issued its initial recommendations, several of them culled from existing industry best practices that companies are already supposed to follow -- but often don't.

"One of the things that has happened over the last decade is that we have moved from proprietary to open networks," said Shawn Abbott, president of Rainbow e-Security, an Irvine, California, cybersecurity firm. "This has created new threats and vulnerabilities. We're really playing catch-up here."

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