WASHINGTON -- The Internet attacks originally aimed at e-commerce sites are continuing this week and even cropping up abroad, so federal investigators are looking into whether copycats are targeting less well-known Web sites.
Newly opened FBI computer-hacking investigations have quadrupled since the first attack at Yahoo! on Feb. 7. Some attacks, not noticed by the public and not identified by the FBI, have continued into this week, and no one knows if they have ended, FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman said Thursday. And attacks have cropped up abroad, said one federal investigator, who requested anonymity.
As of Feb. 9, the FBI had opened four new investigations of these so-called distributed denial of service attacks. Now the total is ''more than 17 new investigations, including more than 13 where the victim suffered a distributed denial of service attack,'' Weierman said Thursday. Only eight of the more than 13 have been identified publicly.
Four investigations involve the placing of denial of service tools, known as daemons, on middleman computers that can later be remotely ordered to attack a victim site, Weierman said. Hiding these daemons on unwitting host computers is a key step in mounting distributed denial of service attacks.
''The possibility of copycats is out there, as are other theories, with these piggyback incidents,'' she said.
At first, the close timing suggested the attacks were launched by the same person or people. As the attacks continued, investigators began actively looking into the copycat theory, according to other federal law enforcement officials, who requested anonymity.
FBI agents are girding for a painstaking, time-consuming investigation but hoping an unexpected quick break might lead to an arrest to discourage other copycats, one federal law enforcement official said.
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