[18,000lbs damage to the ISP.]

January 23th
Terrorists attack by hackers hits firms
by Caroline O'Doherty

THOUSANDS of businesses were without vital e-mail services this week after
an Irish Internet provider firm was the victim of a serious security
breach by computer hackers, believed to have terrorist links. 

The hack attack forced Connect Ireland to pull the plug on all its
Internet and e-mail services on Tuesday night and staff were still working
frantically last night to restore services to its 3,000 customers
countrywide by today. 

The company believe the attack was politically motivated and that they
were targeted along with as many as 100 providers in the United States
because they created the Internet service or East Timor, the island in the
Indian Ocean engaged in a bitter struggle for independence from Indonesia. 

The attack was the most sophisticated ever recorded in this country and it
is believed at least 18 hackers worked simultaneously in a concerted
effort to break into the company's high security systems on Tuesday night. 

Connect Ireland director Martin Maguire said as soon as breaches of their
system's security were spotted, they completely shut down all its
operations, to the frustration of many customers. 

"We took the nuclear option for two reasons. We have a social
responsibility and were afraid of being used a launch pad for other
attacks by these hackers," Mr Maguire said.  "We also wanted to reduce the
long-term impact on our users although we appreciate customers who have
had to do without services will have found that hard to understand." 

Connect Ireland is responsible for one of the two 'domains' created in
this country. The familiar .ie domain run from UCD denotes Irish websites
but the company also created the world's first virtual reality country
here by setting up the .tp domain as a base for East Timorese sites. 

Mr Maguire believes the timing of the attack was significant as the
freedom.tp site, which addresses issues in the conflict, won its second
international award in Portugal last week.  He suspects once the hackers
had fully penetrated the Connect Ireland system, they intended making
their way into the systems of high-profile users where they could have
caused havoc to business and industry. 

They used the name Daniel to identify themselves but although they covered
their tracks brilliantly, the hallmarks of their work show they had to be
mature, college-educated, well-organised and funded. 

"Our assumption is that the attack was so well organised, so deliberate
and so skilful that whoever was doing it must be getting paid. The value
to them is not one of kudos." The cost of the shutdown to Connect Ireland,
which is run by just seven people, is estimated at 18,000 so far, but
individual customers will have their own figures in mind for the loss of

"Our customers on the whole have been great. They've come in to man the
phones and make tea. It's quite incredible to see how they've rallied

Mr Maguire said he did not fear future attacks as the company had proven
its ability to stop the hackers in their tracks and it would prove costly
and difficult to the culprits to have to start again and find a new way
through the system when it was up and running.