A cyber-warfare mystery: Ghost in the machine – When is a cyber-attack a real one?

America and other countries still have to fine-tune their cyber-defences to distinguish mere nuisances from real menaces. That, rather than any revelations about fiendish North Korean cyber-warfare, seems to be the upshot of the latest reported cyber-attack on South Korean and American websites.Initially, it was reported that this was the first series of attacks to hit government websites in several countries simultaneously. Officials in both Seoul and Washington, DC, said they were suffering “distributed denial of service” overload (known as DDOS in geekspeak). In these a computer is overwhelmed with bogus requests for a response sent from infected computers. American targets included sites at the Treasury, the Secret Service, and the Transportation Department; the South Korean list included the Defence Ministry, the National Assembly, the presidential Blue House and some banks. The timing felt eerie: attacks began on July 4th, Independence Day.

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