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Canadian officials search for hacker in cyberattacks

Canadian law officials are investigating a Montreal-based Internet service provider in search of an anonymous hacker called "mafiaboy."

Canadian law officials have investigated a Montreal-based Internet service provider in an attempt to gather information about a suspected hacker that could have been involved in recent cyberattacks on some of the Net?s leading Web sites.

Royal Canadian Mounted Shutdown special report Police (RCMP) late yesterday questioned executives at ISP Internet Direct about a former subscriber with the Internet handle "mafiaboy." This online name is the same one that several security experts have pointed to as a possible suspect in last week?s "distributed denial of service" attacks.

In a denial of service attack, hackers use any number of computers to send a barrage of information requests to servers that host Web sites. The overwhelming stream of information often clogs a server network and paralyzes the site it hosts.

Leading Net portal Yahoo was the first to be hit by such an attack last week; e-commerce sites Amazon.com, eBay and Buy.com, as well as trading sites E*Trade and Datek Online, also were brought down by the attacks for a brief period of time.

"Mafiaboy" was apparently a handle from an account that was cancelled by the Canadian ISP in 1998 for "violating terms and conditions," said Colin Campbell, senior vice president of Internet services at Toronto-based Look Communications, which owns Internet Direct.

How a denial of service attack works The "mafiaboy" handle held two accounts on Delphi Supernet, a Montreal-based ISP that Internet Direct acquired last May.

Campbell said the company was served with a search warrant yesterday by law enforcement officials. The company then handed over information regarding the canceled "mafiaboy" account, he said.

Campbell said Internet Direct had so far only dealt with Canadian law enforcement, and had not yet been approached by representatives from the FBI.

An FBI representative declined to comment on the agency's investigation into the recent attacks. But the representative added that leads in the investigation have taken the agency outside of U.S. borders, including into Canada.

"In the course of the investigation, we have been in dialogue with the RCMP," the representative said.