The government and private technology experts warned Wednesday that hackers plan to attack thousands of Web sites Sunday in a loosely coordinated "contest" that could disrupt Internet traffic. Organizers established a Web site, defacers-challenge.com, listing in broken English the rules for hackers who might participate. The Web site appeared to operate out of California and cautioned to "deface its crime" -- an apparent acknowledgment that vandalizing Internet pages is illegal.
Home Internet users, who typically do not operate Web sites, probably would not be affected directly.
An early warning network for the technology industry notified companies that it received "credible information" about the planned attacks and already has detected surveillance probes by hackers looking for weaknesses in corporate and government networks.
Internet providers and other organizations have been warned that the goal of the hackers was to vandalize 6,000 Web sites in six hours.
Companies have been urged to change default computer passwords, begin monitoring Web site activities more aggressively, remove unnecessary functions from server computers and apply the latest software repairs from vendors.
Chris Rouland, director of the X-force security team at ISS, said researchers monitoring underground chat rooms and other Internet activity detected a drop in the numbers of vandalized Web sites recently and an increase in the types of surveillance scans that typically precede computer break-ins.
"It's kind of a sand-bagging period," said Rouland, who predicted hackers were quietly breaking into computers and waiting to vandalize them on Sunday.The purported "prize" for participating hackers was 500-megabytes of online storage space, which made little sense to computer experts. They said hackers capable of breaking into thousands of computers could easily steal that amount of storage on corporate networks.