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Hackers can get into anything

One hack attack after another occurs regularly, demonstrating how adept the hackers are at breaking through even the most stringent security some solution must be found, I just don't know what, if no firewall works.

For example a concentrated cyber attack made Adidas shut down its websites after it discovered it on 3 November. The shut-down was a precaution to protect site visitors. The sportswear company said it had no evidence at the time of any theft of customer data. The main site was still down on Monday night, but individual country sites seemed to be operating fine.

The second incident could be a coincidence or an actual hack attack of Israeli government websites. All Israeli government and security-related websites crashed on Sunday. They were up again overnight after hours of malfunctions.

Israel has denied claims the shut-down was the result of a hack, instead blaming it on a malfunction in an “IBM-manufactured storage component”.

Earlier the Anonymous hackers group had published an online video threatening the government with a cyber attack in response to the Israel's interception of two boatloads of activists trying to reach Gaza.

Anonymous also claimed responsibility for a denial-of-service attack against Capital One Bank's website on Saturday. The site was back up on Monday.

The incidents show you can firewall your system using as much money as possible and still suffer an attack. A shoe company, a bank and a highly security conscious government: you would think they would have some pretty high tech security of some sort.

Adidas seemed to have handled the attack well, though it is losing money. Those sites sell some high priced footwear. A shut-down of this length would be disastrous for a purely online outfit. The Capital One Bank penetration was worrying. And if the attack on the Israeli government's sites was not a hack, I still have to ask where was the backup site?

Local newspaper Haaretz says the defence ministry's website alone gets hit by some 80,000 attacks a day. Its site, which operates on servers independent of government servers and which uses special security programs, was operating normally on Sunday.

One lesson all businesses should incorporate into their procedures: given that a hacker can get into anything, it then makes sense to depend on monitoring, using both software and humans. Software can detect patterns (repeated attempts at penetration), trigger alerts and even implement solutions automatically. Human intervention is needed when the pattern is not obvious, or when a decision impacts a business' core functions and needs corporate approval.


As a fan of radio detective and spy drama I am looking forward to when the BBC puts its archive online. The new website will archive radio programmes back to the 1940s, reports the Telegraph. The project is currently called 'Audiopedia'. It will be ready in a year.

Audiopedia will be part of a growing universe of digital library sites, perhaps encouraged by the European Union's Europeana.eu, an interface to digital versions of millions of books, paintings, films, objects and records that make up the continent's cultural heritage. I browse though it sometimes, always finding something of interest.

Lately I have been going through the film archive, which has been updated recently. However, Europeana is so difficult to navigate and has a bizarre menu, that I can no longer find the section. Even the search function works strangely. The operators will have to work on the site a lot more before people find it easy to access the collections.

Still, Europeana has led the way, at least in Europe, after some EU countries proposed it in 2005 as a way of bringing together all the collections held in various museums. Digital libraries are a growing trend. Will this spark a new way of making art more accessible? It certainly makes it easier to bring together art works and other artefacts in digital collections (such as Europeana is doing) as is never possible in a museum. Perhaps these compilations will inspire artists, art scholars and others.

Project Gutenberg was the first major attempt to start an online collection, and as the name suggests, it has been digitalising out-of-copyright books since 1971 using volunteers. It now holds 36,000 books, with about 50 new ones being added each week. It is the original crowd sourcing project. My Kindle is packed with loads of books from Project Gutenberg. Most are ones I always wanted to read.

Perhaps I never will, but at least they are waiting for me on my Kindle!

The other great digital collection is the Smithsonian Collection (http://www.si.edu), which has 7.4 million digital records out of the

137 million physical items held by the museum.

Lastly, don't forget to check out the digital newspaper collection published online by the British Library. The library charges for access but you can see some of the publications online for free.

Send any comments to Ahmed at elamin.ahmed[AT]gmail.com.

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Published November 09, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated November 09, 2011 at 8:15 am)

Hackers can get into anything

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