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Satellite outage renews security concerns

May 22, 1998

May 22, 1998
Web posted at: 11:47 AM EDT (1147 GMT)

(CNN) -- When the Galaxy IV satellite failed Tuesday, shutting down national paging services, radio and TV broadcasts and some bank and credit card services, it pointed out how much Americans rely on computers.

Some questioned whether a hacker was to blame. That theory has since been ruled out, but experts acknowledge it could happen again.

"There are risks that power grids can be shut down, that fundamental communications can be shut down, that critical services can lose their ability to communicate -- hospitals, banks, literally our entire economy and so many services, " computer security expert Jim Bidzos said.

Computer security experts say if there's a wire connected to a device, there's a way in -- finding that way in is the hacker's game.

"It's an undiscovered field for hackers," said John Vranesevich of, an archive of hacking-related materials.

"It's something that hasn't been widely penetrated yet. Hundreds and hundreds of military servers have been broken into, but that's been done. It's a 'what can we do next?' sort of mentality."

Bidzos added, "It's impossible to plug all the holes. So if the hackers were to find a hole, the computer-security practitioners will patch it, and then the hackers will find another hole -- and the game goes on."

And no one knows how the game will end.

Correspondent Don Knapp contributed to this report


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