The U.S. government is advising system administrators to monitor their systems for computer attacks planned this week, ahead of the Washington, D.C., meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The meetings have spurred protests in previous years, but this year anti-globalization activists are expected to step up their plans, possibly attempting to block traffic on the city's streets on Friday. The U.S. government's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) said Monday that those planning physical disruption might also use computer attacks to "enhance the effects of the physical attack or to complicate the response by emergency services to the attack."
Although there have been no specific cyberthreats issued against the IMF and World Bank meetings, the center warned that "several hacker groups" could be planning Internet protests.
The center said that computer attacks could be carried out either by idealistic hackers or simply by publicity seekers. "Cyberprotestors can engage in Web page defacements, denial-of-service attacks, misinformation campaigns, and the like," the NIPC said in a statement.
The center recommended that system administrators monitor their own computer networks to prevent hackers from either staging attacks on their own networks, or using the network as a jumping-off point to attack a third party.
Administrators were also urged to review their security procedures, including limiting unnecessary inbound traffic, changing passwords and login names and keeping up-to-date with software patches. Suspicious activity can be reported to FBI offices, the NIPC or other authorities, the NIPC said.
Last summer a European Union summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, was marred by running battles between police and protesters, causing the World Bank to cancel a planned Barcelona meeting and turn it into an online videoconference.
The NIPC dates online activism from 1998, when Electronic Disturbance Theater endorsed a series of attacks on the Web site of the Mexican government.
ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma reported from London.