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News Briefs

Hacker Attacks on Major Internet Sites Slow Down


The computer vandals who blocked access to nearly a dozen high-profile Internet sites this week took a breather Thursday as the Pentagon, government agencies and universities scoured their systems to ensure they had not become unwitting accomplices in the attacks.

Justice Department officials said Thursday they were continuing their hunt for the culprits but had identified no suspects. Several computer security experts warned that the data trail was probably already cold.

“It’s going to be very hard to track this down by technical mechanisms,” said researcher Steve Bellovin of AT&T Labs.

Authorities believe the attacks that temporarily shut down sites including Yahoo, Amazon and CNN were a version of what is called a “distributed denial of service.” In such hits, hackers drop malicious software into unsuspecting computer systems and then activate the software remotely to bombard the target sites with overwhelming streams of data.

A spokesman for the Defense Department said while there is no evidence that Pentagon computers were used as intermediaries, officials would check the hard drives of the more than 1 million computers it has hooked up to the Internet.

Struggle Inside Reform Party Could Soon Lead to Split


Just as the Reform Party appears poised to establish a national identity independent of Ross Perot, two major factions are locked in a struggle for power that will come to a head this weekend in Nashville, Tenn.

The dispute shows signs of fracturing the party. The party’s highest elected official, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, is likely Friday to take pre-emptive action and bolt, anticipating that party leaders loyal to him will be voted out of office on Saturday.

The conflict has virtually nothing to do with substance or policy and everything to do with who will be in charge when the Reform Party and its 2000 nominee receive $12.6 million in federal money for the general election campaign.

This time, the conflict pits the party’s Perot wing against activists aligned with the rising Reform star, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura; a formal break between the two would be very damaging because Ventura could take many party members with him.

Group Says Russian Soldiers Executed Chechen Civilians


Allegations of atrocities by Russian soldiers in Chechnya continued to mount Thursday as a prominent human rights group charged that occupying forces have executed at least 38 civilians -- including two children -- in Grozny, the separatist republic’s capital.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has documented the alleged killings from the reports of refugees who fled Grozny, painted a grim picture of a war-ravaged city where marauding soldiers loot property, burn houses and summarily execute civilians for revenge or for their meager possessions.

The organization has collected evidence of 55 such killings of civilians by Russian forces in Chechnya and is investigating an additional 12 reported killings. In one case, federal troops allegedly exterminated the entire 10-member Zubayev family, including sisters aged 8 and 12 and their 68-year-old grandfather.