Hack Attack

Hack Attack

Hack Attack

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 8 2002 5:45 AM

Hack Attack

USA Today leads with a piece anticipating President Bush's speech on Tuesday about corporate fraud. The paper says that Bush is likely to call for criminal penalties for executives who misrepresent finances. USAT also says "there's no indication" whether Bush will support the tough Democratic-sponsored Senate legislation that would, among other things, force the accounting industry to move away from self-regulation. The New York Times has a similar lead and says that the Senate bill "appears likely" to get bipartisan support. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with news that three senators, including one Republican, said on the Sunday talk shows that the assassination of Afghanistan's vice president showed that the U.S. needs to put more troops into the country, potentially as part of the peacekeeping force there. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that the number of computer hacker attacks on power utilities is "up 77 percent since last year." The article says it's not clear who's launching the attacks, but, citing one FBI expert, says that the utilities "may be moving into the cross-hairs of cyber-terrorists." The Washington Post   leads with word, as the NYT reported yesterday, that the government plans to vaccinate at least 500,000 medical personnel against the smallpox virus, which could be used in a bio-terror attack. The Post says the program will be voluntary for now, but probably won't be should an actual attack occur.

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USAT's lead notes that accounting lobbyists have "worked with Republicans" in the House to draft a bill, endorsed by President Bush, that would keep the industry largely self-regulated. The paper also says that the accounting industry has "poured" more than $57 million in federal campaigns in the past decade, including about $130,000 into President Bush's 2000 election coffers. USAT says that lobbyists expect that the Senate and House bills will have to be reconciled in House-Senate negotiations, where USAT says, "lobbyists believe they can shape the bill more to their liking."

Everybody notes that Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said on a Sunday talk show that SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt has a "cozy and permissive relationship" with the accounting industry and should be probably replaced. (Read a Slate "Assessment" of Pitt.)

The NYT goes inside with news that the assassination of Afghanistan's Vice President Hajji Abdul Qadir may have been ordered by drug lords who opposed his effort to destroy the country's poppy crop. The Times also notes that Qadir "had long been suspected" of being involved in the drug biz himself and that he might have been killed because he was somehow playing favorites.

The source for the LAT's lead on the "post-Sept. 11" rise in power-plant hacking is a report by a place called Riptech, which is a computer security firm that contracts out its services to, among others, power-plant companies. The paper never says if there are any other, perhaps less self-interested, sources for similar data (nor does it clarify if the study really started after Sept. 11 or if that's just a terror-hook that the LAT inserted). Meanwhile, it's not until the 21st paragraph that the paper, paraphrasing one expert, says that the hacking attacks at issue are "many levels removed" from actually being able to do real harm. "I see no evidence that there are expert cyber-terrorists today," concluded the security specialist (in the 22nd paragraph).

The LAT properly credits the WP for reporting last month on the potential for cyber-terror.

With the opening of a major international AIDS conference in Spain, the papers all have dispatches about the virus. The NYT off-leads a new CDC study that concluded that 77 percent of young gay and bisexual men who have HIV aren't aware that they're infected. The rate among young, infected black men was even higher, 90 percent. The LAT, meanwhile, goes inside with news that researchers are set to announce that a new drug, T-20, has proven effective at treating AIDS patients who have not responded well to other drugs. 

The NYT fronts word that Kurdish officials in northern Iraq "flatly stated" that they oppose the idea of an American invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. The Kurds, who in the past decade have created a de facto mini-state in northern Iraq protected by the U.N.'s no-flight zone, explained that they're doing well nowadays and they don't see any need to rock the boat. The Times says that Kurdish officials "reserved their harshest judgment" for any possible plans to foment a coup. "We want a democratic, pluralistic, responsible government in Iraq," said one official. "That cannot come from a coup." (By the way, TheNew Yorker ran an article a few months ago that also talked about the Kurds' hesitance.)

A story inside the Post notes that Richard Wool, a chemical engineer, believes he's come up with the perfect material to create a faster generation of microchips: Chicken feathers. Wool says that he's still in the early stages of research but explains that his fowl wafers operate at twice the speed of silicon chips.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.