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SLUG: 5-51880 CYBERTERRORIST THREATS
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=06/28/02

TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT

TITLE= CYBERTERRORIST THREATS

NUMBER=5-51880

BYLINE=NICK SIMEONE

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Cyberspace is getting more attention from U-S officials as a possible venue for terrorism. C-I-A Director George Tenet has warned in the past that the country was unprotected from an attack on computer networks capable of disrupting everything from the nation's banking system to its military preparedness. Correspondent Nick Simeone reports such an attack is exactly what the government fears al-Qaida or its sympathizers might be planning.

TEXT: Nearly four years to the day after his initial warning, C-I-A Director George Tenet this week again told Congress that virtually nothing has been done since then to protect key parts of America's infrastructure from terrorism.

/// TENET ACT ///

There are all kinds of infrastructure targets in the country, from your air system to your rail system to your water system. The vulnerability assessment and a systemic program of protection is what the country doesn't have.

/// END ACT ///

This, as U-S intelligence warns several governments around the world already have or are trying to develop cyber warfare programs. Simply by tapping into unprotected websites, terrorists operating far beyond the reach of the United States could launch a surprise and anonymous attack. It's happened in Mexico, where supporters of Zapatista rebels have sabotaged websites belonging to Mexican financial institutions. Two years ago, hackers prevented millions of people around the world from being able to reach popular internet sites such as Yahoo, E-Bay and Amazon-dot-com.

But those disruptions are minor compared to the kind that Patrick Grey, who analyzes threats at the Center for Internet Security Systems, warns could hit this country.

/// GREY ACT ///

Are we better prepared than when George Tenet made that statement several years ago? In some of the financial sectors, yes. As far as the public utilities, no, right now, simply because of the ubiquitousness of connecting to the Internet.

/// END ACT ///

Everything from water supplies, bridges, dams, transportation networks and many other vital services are vulnerable.

/// SECOND GREY ACT ///

All of these things are usually connected to the internet through remote capabilities so people can open a lock or shut a lock or change a railway switch.

/// END ACT ///

The Washington Post quotes national security officials as saying instructions have been found on laptops seized from al-Qaida strongholds in Afghanistan describing how to remotely control utilities and emergency systems in the United States.

/// THIRD GREY ACT ///

We hear a lot of rhetoric that al-Qaida probably does not have the technical skills to do these things but there are a lot of folks out there in the world that do not like this country, do not like our form of government, who are capable of doing it and I think with the money that these folks have they certainly can go out and find mercenaries who can do it for them.

/// END ACT ///

The issue is an urgent priority for the F-B-I. On Thursday, newspapers in Poland reported authorities are on the lookout for a hacker in that country who managed to penetrate computers used by the U-S space agency, NASA, reportedly causing damages estimated at about a million dollars. (SIGNED)

NJS/NS/RH



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