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While computer hackers hack and the feds wring their hands, companies rushing to connect to the Internet are twisting in the wind of potential liability.

The hackers that overwhelmed several big Web sites — including those of Amazon.com, Buy.com, CNN, eBay, Excite and Yahoo! — with traffic a few weeks ago used other people’s computers to do it. The hackers mounted their attacks by penetrating university computers and commanding them, in turn, to deluge the providers with more traffic than individual hackers themselves could generate. According to specialists in computer law, future attacks could just as well use commercial computers. And that fact brings with it an increased responsibility to beef up security, the lawyers warn.

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