The capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has reverberated in cyberspace, as the United States came under increased digital attacks.

According to the intelligence unit of mi2g, a British Internet security company, the United State has become the most heavily attacked country in December. The total number of successful and independently verifiable attacks against U.S. servers has now crossed 5,383, with nine days to go before the month's end.

In comparison, the total number of targeted digital attacks against the next seven victim countries add up to the lesser total of 5,172 and include Germany (1,529), Brazil (1,513), Italy (604), Poland (501), Russia (411), Canada (331) and Switzerland (283).

This large difference between digital attacks against the United States and other industrialized nations is a new development, mi2g said in a statement.

This new direction had settled in after Dec. 13, when Mr. Hussein was arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq.

The trend of more attacks against European targets, which mi2g noted had consistently risen in the past few months, has been reversed with the capture, and North America has again emerged as the most attacked target in cyberspace.

More than 42 per cent of all successful attacks have targeted North America in December as opposed to 32.8 per cent against Europe and 12.5 per cent against Latin America.

The absolute number of attacks against Europe has not declined in December, mi2g stated.

The serious business interruption attacks have so far originated primarily from Morocco, Turkey, Kuwait, Indonesia and Pakistan on the one hand and Brazil and Mexico on the other.

There is an increasingly strong anti-war political message in the delivered payload from Islamic countries, especially from hackers who seek a stop to U.S. interference in the Middle East.

Digital attacks are also being carried out by Latin American and East European criminal syndicates in December that involve complex identity theft and financial fraud scams.

Some successful attacks against large entities, originating from China, Taiwan and Russia, have also been launched for espionage and network surveillance purposes.

"The Christmas and New Year holidays are notorious for being a very busy period for hackers because most organizations in the West are quiescent and it is less troublesome to break into their computers," mi2g CEO D.K. Matai said.

After the capture of Saddam Hussein, "there has been a definite spike of digital attacks originating from Islamic countries that has specifically sought to target and damage American economic interests in the run up to Christmas and the New Year," he said.

The past year has been the worst measured in terms of economic damage from overt and covert digital attacks, viruses and worms, distributed denial of service attacks and "phishing" scams, as well as the growing flood of e-mail spam, mi2g said. The he mi2g Intelligence Unit calculated the total economic damage in 2003 from all types of digital risk at between $183-billion (U.S.) and $224-billion worldwide.

The equivalent economic damage figures for 2002 stood at between $106-billion and $130-billion.

Globe and Mail

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