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Cyber Terrorism

We are all hearing more and more concerns about Cyber Terrorism. On May 29, 2010, Obama announced a new Cyber Security Plan and "He referred to 'spyware and malware and spoofing and phishing and botnets,' all different approaches to what he called 'weapons of mass disruption.' http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/30/us/politics/30cyber.html


The most recent, highly publicized cyber attack in January was more coordinated and sophisticated than many security experts had ever seen. Wired Magazine had an article with this quote: "Hackers seeking source code from Google, Adobe and dozens of other high-profile companies used unprecedented tactics that combined encryption, stealth programming and an unknown hole in Internet Explorer, according to new details released by the anti-virus firm McAfee.
“We have never ever, outside of the defense industry, seen commercial industrial companies come under that level of sophisticated attack,” says Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research for McAfee. “It’s totally changing the threat model.”
A few things strike me as particularly interesting related to Cyber Terrorism:
1) The possibility of bots on US-based computers, laptops (iphones? and ipads?) attacking our own infrastructure is a realistic scenario. This recent article discusses the issue: http://singularityhub.com/2010/03/04/beware-the-botnets-zombie-cyber-attacks/
Imagine the irony of our own computers being our greatest national security weakness. Imagine an alert from the US government sent to the 300M US citizens: "Please turn off all of your computer devices and do not turn them on. They are attacking critical Internet systems. Do not turn them on until you are notified." Then, imagine life without a computer or iPhone or BlackBerry for a few days, maybe a few weeks or months..
2) The possibility of Cyber Terrorists attacking US-based power plants by hacking computers and generators. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJyWngDco3g
www.youtube.com
http://frgdr.com/blog/ From CNN's Jeanne Meserve WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Researchers who launched an experimental cyber attack caused a generator to self-destruct, alarming the federal government and electrical ...
Imagine days/weeks/months without electricity. No lights, most ovens/stoves will not work, all food in refrigerators would spoil. All companies without generators would be shut down. All restaurants and businesses without generators would be shut down.
3) Would/could the US government respond with a Denial of Service attack on the originating attackers, assuming the attackers could be identified?
4) Would the US government shut down some or all of the core Internet routers to protect critical government systems? How would we live without computers?
5) Does the US have enough counter-cyber-terrorism experts to proactively defend against such an attack?
6) Are other countries changing their strategy from building "armies of soldiers" to building "armies of hackers"? Experts trained in Cyber Warfare?
--Brett

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