The FBI, working with the National Infrastructure Protection Center, is trying to track down a programmer known only as "Mixter," the German newspaper Die Welt reported today. In an interview with CNET News.com on Wednesday, Mixter acknowledged that he had written programs that appear similar to those used in the "denial of service" attacks but said he was not involved in the incidents, which brought down Yahoo, eBay, Amazon.com and other online giants.
Mixter is part of a small circle of programmers who work with companies and security professionals, creating potentially hostile technologies that can be used to test firewalls, filters and other protective measures. Their work is controversial, however, because the programs they write can fall into the wrong hands when posted on the Web.
"The fact that I authored these tools does in no way mean that I condone their active use. I must admit I was quite shocked to hear about the latest attacks," Mixter wrote in an email interview with News.com. "It seems that the attackers are pretty clueless people who misuse powerful resources and tools for generally harmful and senseless activities just because they can."
Mixter, who said he lives in Germany, won a $10,000 contest sponsored by a computer security site called Packet Storm for the best way to defend against distributed denial of service attacks, which can paralyze a computer by flooding it with improperly encoded packets of information.
MyCio.com, a division of Network Associates, said yesterday that a computer at a university in Berlin contained software that could be used in a denial of service attack. But it was not known whether the computer had been used in any of this week's incidents.
Similar software agents used for denial of service attacks have been found in computers for several months, authorities say. The University of California at Santa Barbara confirmed yesterday that one of its computers was used to attack CNN's Web site on Tuesday.