August 21st, 2004, 12:48 AM
South Pole Hack Wasn't The First
This article explains that the hack committed by Romanians on the South Pole servers wasn't the first, and law enforcement did not take appropriate measures to strengthen the security of the station when the first hack was done. It was only after the attack from the cyber cafe in Romania that law enforcement saw the real threat on the South Pole stations.
It's a tale Tom Clancy might have written. From their lair in distant Romania, shadowy cyber extortionists penetrate the computers controlling the life support systems at a Antarctic research station, confronting the 58 scientists and contractors wintering over at the remote post with the sudden prospect of an icy death. After some twists and turns, the researchers are saved in the fourth act by an international law enforcement effort led by FBI agents wielding a controversial, but misunderstood, federal surveillance law.
That's the story behind an intrusion into the network at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in May of last year, as it's been told by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General. But did it actually happen that way?
The attack itself was real enough. On May 3rd, network administrators for U.S. Antarctic Program and the South Pole Station received an anonymous e-mail with the subject line "South Pole Station Servers HACKED." "This is a message from earth to earth, do you copy?," the e-mail began. The message demanded money, and threatened to sell information stolen from the network "to another country," according to the FBI. To establish their bona fides, the intruders attached a sample of data lifted from the South Pole network.
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