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August 12, 2009

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'Hacker' detained over car-plate auction crash

A MAN who allegedly hacked into the city's monthly car-plate auction system and crashed it on July 18 has been detained by police.

The man's ploy was to buy a plate at the lowest possible price, police said.

The man, surnamed Zhou, 22, of Zhejiang Province, was responsible for the first successful hack attack on the monthly auction system since it began 15 years ago, officers said.

Zhou waged denial-of-service attacks on the system with thousands of so-called "zombie computers," according to Wang Zhantao, an engineer of Beijing Rising Corp, an Internet security firm.

"DOS is a popular online attack method and can prevent others from accessing the auction system, enabling the hacker to get a plate at a low price," Wang said yesterday.

Police said Zhou bought a car in May this year and attacked the system with purely a financial motive.

Zhou was seized at his home in Anting Township of Jiading District on Sunday after city police spent weeks tracing him through the zombie computers.

Prices for plates were as low as 100 yuan (US$14.63) in July before the auction was postponed and all successful bids canceled.

The auction was then conducted on July 26 and the average plate price jumped 2,159 yuan from the previous month to 32,522 yuan.

People, even without a high-tech background, can easily get control of several thousand zombie computers to launch DOS attacks, if they are willing to pay "only several hundred yuan," according to Wang.

Police said the car-plate auction computer system had upgraded security levels.


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