Hackers target government holes

Global threats such as the Blaster and SQL Slammer worms batter government network defenses as much as those in the commercial arena, but attacks that actually penetrate the network are focused on perceived weaknesses in Web-based applications, according to a Symantec Corp. report.

Based on an analysis of data produced in the last six months of 2003, Symantec officials believe the problem could be due to a greater use of file-sharing applications within government, as opposed to industry.

Globally, there is a bigger mixture of different kinds of attacks, according to Oliver Friedrichs, a senior manager at Symantec. In the last half of 2003, eight of the top 10 attacks on government were related to Web servers or Web-based applications.

"It's the most dominant threat by far," Friedrichs said. "In contrast, threats such as those posed by the Blaster worm and others seem to be adequately blocked by [perimeter] firewall systems."

Using data provided by sensors deployed throughout the government, Symantec officials concluded that TCP ports 6346 and 4662, which are typically used by peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, were targeted much more frequently by attacks against government systems than for other systems around the globe.

That apparently means that attackers believe there are potentially vulnerable Web applications deployed in the government sector, Symantec officials said.

There's been a constant evolution in such Web-based applications and technologies, Friedrichs said, but that also means they are that much more complex "so there's greater potential for more security problems."

That only points out the need to focus even more attention on the security needs of Web-based systems, he said.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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