Foiling The Hackers And Who Anticipated Them

It's not clear what all the fuss is about ("Cyber Crime," Cover Story, Feb. 21). The solution for the large "denial of service" hits to Yahoo!, eBay, and E*Trade is so obvious: legal responsibility.

All owners of Net-connected computers where the hackers were able to plant their "traffic generators" are guilty of generating the traffic that blocked the target sites. Just because others planted the generators should not absolve them of blame and liability for damages. The hackers were able to use those machines only because the machines had inadequate security.

You would be surprised how quickly those "innocent" partners of the hackers would clean up their acts after a few healthy damage awards against them.

Eric Bierman

Ottawa, Canada

Your editorial ("E-Barbarians at the gate," Feb. 21) described the hacker attacks on Web sites as "right out of Philip K. Dick's science-fiction classic Blade Runner."

So far, so wrong. Dick's novel initially had the thought-provoking title Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In truth, it had no content similar to the latest attacks. Maybe you were thinking of (Canadian) William Gibson's Neuromancer--though the whole episode is much more similar to The Shockwave Rider, a novel by the late British science-fiction writer John Brunner. That story includes a distributed "attack" on a global network, organized by one person (though his intention is to make all information available, including secrets corporations and governments want to keep secret).

Brunner had never heard of the Internet when he wrote the book. Perhaps that's not surprising, since he wrote it in 1975.

Charles Arthur


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