The online assaults began Monday, Feb. 8, 2000, blasting Yahoo! with more packet traffic (service requests) than most Web sites receive in a year. The site was down for three hours.

On Tuesday, eBay,,, and were hit with the same type of attack. E*Trade Group and ZD were the victims on Wednesday. It took more than two months to catch the hacker -- a 15-year-old Canadian boy who gave himself away by bragging about his exploits in hacker chat rooms.

Here's another true story: The FBI chose April 1 to announce a new virus, called 911, that attacks Internet service providers. Many wonder whether the virus alert is an April Fools' joke. But the virus is real, earning its name by dropping code into your system that overwrites your computer's hard drive and then uses your telecommunications software to dial 911. The virus leaves the computer useless and the local community emergency services swamped with false calls.

And another: Two teenagers from Wales, posing as Curador: the saint of e-commerce, steal thousands of credit card numbers from various sites and use the information fraudulently to buy domain names so that they can post the information on the Internet. Their activities cause more than $3 million in losses.

The sites were breached by a two-year-old hole in Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) software. Microsoft had created a patch for the hole in the IIS system in 1998 and reissued a warning in 1999. But small e-commerce sites don't have the resources to maintain the security they need.

It's a War Out There

Once you are connected to the Internet, your entire network of computers -- not just your Web servers -- becomes susceptible to malicious attack. To many IT professionals, protecting the network means waging an all-out war against anyone trying to breach their security measures.

Small businesses must defend their computer systems against three potentially business-crippling attacks. These attacks can come from hackers (people who manipulate and bend program codes) and crackers (people who crack code for malicious reasons). These people aren't always out to harm and steal from you, but what they're doing poses a definite threat to your network.

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