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Bits Be Upon Him?

May 23, 2012

I see that the War of Terror is looking to open a new beachhead.  It’s time to sling bits for jihad?

The six-minute video instructs Al Qaeda followers that the U.S. is vulnerable to cyberattacks in the same way airline security was vulnerable in 2001 before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The video calls on Muslims “with expertise in this domain to target the websites and information systems of big companies and government agencies.”

Well, sure.  First of all, you’re going after a new demographic of people, and hoping that you can find a sympathetic audience… one that might have not only expertise but also money.  Second, this type of “war” is likely less casualty-inducing, and successful wagers of cyber-war are harder to catch, and certainly are more likely to stay alive.

Congress, to be sure, is jumping on an opportunity to legislate.

“There has been a huge increase in the number of cyberattacks against our country in the last two years,” [Senator Susan] Collins said. “It would be naive for us to think that Al Qaeda is not responsible for at least some of those attacks.”

Without getting into classified information, [Senator Joe] Lieberman confirmed that there has been a spike in cyber intrusions — believed to originate with Iran.

And I can’t say I’m excited about this.  While I’m okay to ambivalent about increasing penalties for cyber crime, I generally think that legislation involving increase in government power over the Internet and its traffic is not a desirable outcome.  Likewise, I don’t at all support any type of government mandates covering technology.  The government does not move at the pace of technology, and picking a technology point is very likely to just shoot behind any security duck that’s out there.

I understand that cyber attacks are on the rise.  I don’t believe much of that traffic is coming from terrorists, though it could certainly be coming from rogue governments associated with it.  The tools available to hackers are becoming much more sophisticated, and the automation of those tools is at a high level as well.

So with all that, I do think we should be concerned about increases in attacks, and I expect some of those will come with terrorist intentions behind them.  I do not think that it requires a heightened sense of concern yet… at least not any more than you should already have in an environment of incrased exposure.

But keep an eye on this one.  It could change fast… just like technology always does.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2012 10:08 pm

    Cyber wars are real; Israel and Iran had been engaged in it, and Israel is better at it. The question is, what’s the damage? If terrorists get your etsy shop shot down — oh well. Perhaps etsy should work on security. However, if they succeed in breaking into our nuclear sites, it’s a different story.
    Another angle: DH always nags gets on my case when I go on Russian cites because they are full of viruses — and they are. I had my email password stolen when I logged in on my parents computer (they are not vigilant enough about security). There is a lot of unemployed programmers in Russia, and many are up to no good. I’m sure the same is true about the Arab world.

    • May 24, 2012 9:03 am

      You are correct. I’ve written about this on and off.

      My bigger point is that attributing cyber-war to terrorism isn’t accurate yet. Everyone should focus more on securtiy of computing resources. I doubt a terrorist will figure out a why to shut down the nuke facility before China does…

      But that said, a committed person on the inside of a facility is the most dangerous of security breeches.

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