By Brian Johnsrud
America Online, the company that in the past few years has engulfed the entire Internet perspective, may have a wall slammed right in front of its path to success.
Serving more than 18 million people across the world, the same grave message is being sent to these users, simply saying, Hello, Ive got the password to your America Online account. Ha-ha! In the past few months, a spree of malicious password thefts has hit AOL harder than any obstacle yet.
A good deal of these password abductions is involved with OperaMail, a free Web service. Boggling amounts of AOL users have written to OperaMail, complaining about these crimes.
Heres how its happening. E-mails are being sent to these users along with attached programs that immediately send your password back to the sender. One user said the attached program name was buddylist.exe. With these passwords, the intruders can access the users e-mail, personal information, or completely alter their account.
So far, a total of 10,000 theft cases have been reported, but AOL claims its out of its hands. Once OperaMail traces the attackers account, the attacker can merely issue another one with a different name and embark on another spree again. At the going rate, about one different account each day has been found.
Im closing down these accounts everyday. I cant stop them, said Opera sales manager Christian Dysthe. AOL is currently using the Neighborhood Watch program, informing all users, and relying on them to report these cases immediately.
This kind of hacking is an old story for AOL.
In 1996, the Washington Post reported AOL cancelled 370,000 accounts in one three-month period for credit card fraud, hacking, ect.
Also, last March, 19-year-old Jay Satiro broke into America Onlines internal computers from his bedroom and altered programs, total damage estimated at more than $50,000. Satiro still faces charges of first-degree computer tampering. A previous volunteer at AOL technical support, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
AOLs imperturbable attitude seems to be steaming the accused
AOL doesnt really seem too eager to do much. Why arent they shutting the hole that makes it possible for this virus to steal passwords? said Dysthe.
But even with the minor setbacks, AOLs popularity doesnt seem fazed as the company recently spent $175 million dollars to upgrade its current software to AOL 5.0. With a whirlwind of new opportunities creeping across the millennium, a broad spectrum of more potential hacking is coming to life.