Net attack more serious than thought


Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 12:28 a.m.
WASHINGTON - The weekend attack on the Internet crippled some sensitive corporate and government systems, including banking operations and 911 centers, far more seriously than many experts believed possible.
The nation's largest residential mortgage firm, Countrywide Financial Corp., told customers who called Monday it was still suffering from the attack. Its Web site, where customers usually can make payments and check their loans, was closed most of Monday with a note about "emergency maintenance." Countrywide predicted it would be early todayTuesday before all its computers were fully repaired and its systems validated for security, spokesman Rick Simon said.
Police and fire dispatchers outside Seattle resorted to paper and pencil for hours Saturday after the virus-like attack disrupted operations for the 911 center that serves two suburban police departments and at least 14 fire departments.
American Express Co. confirmed that customers couldn't reach its Web site to check credit statements and account balances during parts of the weekend. Perhaps most surprising, the attack prevented many customers of Bank of America Corp., one of the largest U.S. banks, and some large Canadian banks from withdrawing money from automatic teller machines Saturday.
The surprising disruptions shook popular perceptions that vital services were largely immune to such attacks.
President Bush's No. 2 cyber-security adviser, Howard Schmidt, acknowledged Monday that what he called "collateral damage" stunned even experts who have been warned about uncertain effects on the nation's most important electronic systems from mass-scale Internet disruptions.

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