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One Link in Computer Attacks Traced

February 11, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Investigators have determined that a University of California computer was used as a middleman in this week’s attack on the CNN Internet site, the university said today.

But they are still looking for where the attack originated. ``There is no indication that the attack came from anyone in the university,″ said Kevin Schmidt, network programmer at the university’s Santa Barbara campus.

FBI and Justice Department officials had no comment on the role of the computers at UC-Santa Barbara.

Schmidt said a desktop computer in a research lab at the Santa Barbara campus was electronically broken into by a hacker sometime before Tuesday night’s attack on the cable television network’s computer Web site.

Checking from home near midnight Tuesday, Schmidt discovered an abnormality in the university’s computer traffic. By Wednesday morning, he was able to tell CNN that a UC-Santa Barbara computer was involved in the denial-of-service attack on its site.

CNN notified the FBI. Schmidt has been assisting the FBI since then in trying to locate the origin of the attack.

Denial-of-service attacks like those that struck half a dozen Internet sites this week often involve dozens or even hundreds of unwitting middleman computers, often at large sites like universities. The middleman computers are known as ``zombie″ computers.

UC-Santa Barbara was a pioneer in computer science, one of the first four nodes on the precursor of the Internet, a Pentagon-backed system known as Arpanet.

CNN also said Friday that the FBI was ``zeroing in on undisclosed locations in California and Oregon″ in its effort to reach the ultimate launchpad for the attacks.

In Washington, FBI spokesman Bill Carter had no comment on that report. FBI agent Gordon Compton in Portland, Ore., said the matter was being handled by the San Francisco office and that there would be no further comment.

In the midst of a difficult investigation, federal investigators gained cold comfort from the fact that this week’s massive attacks on the Internet sites woke people up to the risks of the digital age.

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