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a keyboard and a credit carddiscussion: What are your views on the Internet's security vulnerabilities?  And what about the role of hackers in exposing these flaws?


Dear FRONTLINE,

After seeing your show on hackers kinda of makes me think about how vulnerable I might be, since I am connected via cable modem. The only part of the show the show that I felt was missing, is a section that disscussed what someone can do to limit(I know you can never eliminate)a persons vulnerability to a hack attack.

George G
milwaukee, wi

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
For this viewer and others--please check out the section of our Hackers web site which gives good advice on "How to Be Vigilant" and protect your computer security.


Dear FRONTLINE,

The Internet is an infrastructure that by it's very nature and design have left all connected to it vulnerable. Everyone that has any interest at all in the future of the Internet as a valid medium should consider that each has an impact on the whole.

Business has an impact on the User through the compromise of consumer data, the use of privacy invading code, etc.

The user has an impact on business through poor personal security models, and use of available tools, making them unwitting accomplices in DDos attacks, worm propagation, etc.

Providers have an impact on the infrastructure itself through creating mass appeal for Internet Use without suitable safety and security precaution.

These are the views at http://www.Cyber-Hood-Watch.org, which not only offers this comprehensive view, but also comprehensive solutions.

Paul Hook
riverside, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

First, thanks to Mr. D'Agostino. He already said most of what needed to be said, to point out the over-hyped nature of this new bogeyman.

I've suspected for at least five years that this was overstated, and that those were sounding the alarm were trying to inflate the importance of their own skill sets. The resemblances to Y2K are obvious. But hackers, smart as some may be, do NOT wield force. They ARE stoppable. And alarmism about them is not harmless--it drains resources and attention away from real-world, physical terrorism.

Ronald Garrison
durham, nc


Dear FRONTLINE,

The big problem with your program on hackers was your reliance on security experts. These experts make a living off of our fear. So naturally they are going to talk about how the countryís infrastructure is one hack away from being brought to a halt and totally destroyed. As an example of the this your security expert Richard Power states, "Well, where is the evidence of infrastructure attacks?" And no one will talk about it, and maybe there hasn't been one. But the Martin Luther King Day crash in the early 1990s is an incident that I understand to be an infrastructure attack, although AT&T only acknowledges a software glitch." Here Mr. Power is searching for a snake in the woodpile when there isn't one. AT&T is telling the truth, the Martin Luther King Day crash did happened because of a software glitch. Within the software there was a long "do... while" construct. The "do... while" construct contained a "switch" statement. The "switch" statement contained an "if" clause. The "if" clause contained a "break." The "break" was supposed to "break" the "if clause." Instead, the "break" broke the "switch" statement.

That was the problem, the actual reason why people picking up phones on January 15, 1990, could not talk to one another and not because of a hacker attack.

Mr. Power cannot make money off a simple software code error. He makes money by spinning wild conspiracy theories of hackers destroying civilization to sell his consulting services. The sad thing is PBS and Frontline gave him the opportunity to do it. I expected better and you have failed.

Jamie D'Agostino
charleston, west virginia


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think you missed an important player in the war against cybercrime. Steve Gibson, of Gibson Research Corporation has a diverse background and offers some weighty input into the hacker problem.

He also offers some proven solutions to windows vulnerabilities, but is Microsoft listening?

Check out his web site at: http://grc.com/default.htm

los angeles, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

The answer to computer breakins is simple, but it requires that the company, governmentagency, etc. use completely closed systems and transfer their data on separate systems which can be closely monitored for possible virusis, worms, etc. before placing it into the secure system.

This of course will slow down the systems involved considerably, but until a failsafe system can be designed (if ever), it is the only way to prevent breakins by outsiders. Nothing, unfortunately for insiders who may have ulterior motives.

The internet is fast, but is speed the only reason for placing a system's information in joepardy, if you are truly interested in security.

I have been using computers since 1979 (on a CPM system originally. I had a paper with a totaLly closed mailing list kept off line and copied each time onto the hard disk before using.

I did like the show and some of the comments were quite good as to the problem. Lots of questions, not too many answers.

Marv Rosen San Diego

Marvin Rosen
san diego, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought something was missing from the frontline episode on hacking. No mention was made of the corporate intrusion of home computers. Few computer users realize the extent to which they are tracked and logged as they surf the net. This information is of greatest value not to hackers, but to those with a financial interest in the user and these entities represent a greater privacy threat to the user. Perhaps only hackers understand this. - RodeoX

k.c., kansas

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Although FRONTLINE did not address corporations tracking individuals' information over the Internet in the broadcast of "Hackers," this article, Hacked by a Corporation, details some of the ways that companies gather information about unsuspecting web surfers.


Dear FRONTLINE,

The episode about 'hackers' seemed extremely misinformative except for one thing; the 'cut-scenes' showing the view, from inside a slotcar, of the slotcar track. Curiousity forces me, being a slotcar racer myself, to ask who in the production crew of Frontline or the crew which produced the 'Hackers' episode is a fellow slotcar racer and at which track the scenes were filmed.

You have a great show but having no disclaimer about the use of the term 'hackers' and having no explanation about the origin of the term distresses me a bit. Explaining the origin of the term might place things into better perspective for those less informed.

Bob witheald
chicago, il


Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline:

Very interesting presentation regarding hackers and the contributions they make to the overall security of the Internet.

However, I find it completely irresponsible on your part to have not one, but two Federal Law Enforcement officers on to describe how absolutely vulnerable the general public is to hackers without quizzing them about the CARNIVORE system they have developed and its capabilities. Granted, it is not online and in use as of now, but the tests that have been run on this system, with and without its filters in place are truly incredible. Any constitutional lawyer would say "scary" instead.

Hackers are not the only ones who will be affected by this system once it is in place. Your average ordinary citizen will be tracked by this system, and there is no case law in place to regulate it. Challenges to this system and the evidence it provides will clog up the courts for years.

I would suggest that if you do a follow-up to this story you should focus on the legal challenges that will ultimately hinder the development of the Internet and computer related technology.

Kathleen Nelson
minneapolis, mn


Dear FRONTLINE,

How ironic that throughout a program focused on the vulnerability of computers and cyberspace we are encouraged to go online, connect to the world wide web, to learn more.

Nancy Harris
somerville, ma



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