[ISN] US At Mercy of Cyber Terrorists (new legislation)

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Mon May 18 1998 - 17:45:48 PDT

  • Next message: mea culpa: "[ISN] RSI.0002.05-18-98.BNU.UUCPD"

    [Moderator: The CIA?! Lets see, we have a failing agency that finds itself
     with little work to do, facing a lot of public heat... wonder what favors
     were cashed in to give them the work for this.]
    Forwarded From: Nicholas Charles Brawn <ncb05at_private>
    By Matthew Campbell, Washington.
    PRESIDENT Bill Clinton will announce plans this week to build ramparts
    against a new and invisible enemy threatening to spread more chaos in
    America than any conventional terrorist attack.  He will unveil defence
    measures unprecedented in the history of human conflict to protect America
    from the potentially devastating peril posed by cyber warfare, in which
    computer systems controlling airports, hospitals, traffic lights, banks
    and even nuclear weapons could be destroyed, creating havoc. 
    It sounds like a science fiction fantasy. But it is already happening.
    This month the Pentagon reported "a series of systematic attacks" on its
    computer systems in an incident considered so ominous that the president
    was told it could be the work of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.  The prospect of
    Saddam hiring a computer hacker to try to cripple American computer
    systems fills defence experts with horror: by a strange para dox,
    America's technological superiority and consequent dependence on
    computers, leave it more vulnerable than most countries to cyber attack.
    Britain is also at risk. 
    Clinton will announce the creation of two government organisations to
    concentrate on monitoring the cyber threat and informing the public of the
    danger. He will also appoint a "ter rorism tsar" to co-ordinate efforts to
    prepare for cyber warfare. 
    Advisers have presented him with chilling evidence about the vulnerability
    of America to cyber attack. A series of war games conducted by experts has
    revealed that the world's greatest superpower could be disabled by a
    handful of determined "cyber attackers" para lysing airports, markets and
    military systems with a few taps on a keyboard. 
    Clinton's plan, to be unveiled in the White House on Friday, aims to make
    America safe from that within five years. The president will appoint
    Richard Clark, a State Department official, to co-ordinate the activities
    of various government agencies involved in counter-terrorism; he will also
    order the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to do more to prepare against
    the threat. 
    "Because of our military strength, future enemies, whether nations, groups
    or individuals, may seek to harm us in non-traditional ways, including
    attacks within the United States," says Clinton's 18-page "presidential
    order", a copy of which has been obtained by The Sunday Times. "Because
    our economy is increasingly reliant upon cyber-supported infrastructures,
    non-traditional attacks on our infrastructure and information systems may
    be capable of significantly harming both our military power and our
    Making things even more difficult for American defence experts is not
    knowing who the enemy is. Whether they are disgruntled Americans, Hamas
    terrorists or pariah dictators such as Saddam, the attackers could wage
    cyber warfare undetected on any laptop computer from the Sinai desert to
    Just as exasperating for the government would be deciding how to deploy
    its vast military. "If you don't know who your enemy is, how can you
    retaliate?" said one expert. 
    This makes cyber warfare the great equaliser, a cheap and effective weapon
    for any Third World rogue state or small terrorist organisation wanting to
    wage war against a superpower - and win. All they might need is a few
    million dollars to hire a handful of "cyber mercenaries" capable of
    penetrating supposedly secure government systems. 
    "The Gulf war showed that you cannot fight a tank battle against America
    and win," said a security adviser to the president. "The threat in the
    future will be weapons that can be used in the manner of David's sling
    against Goliath: information warfare is definitely one of those."  Until
    recently, hacking into government computer systems seemed the preserve of
    teenage pranksters. Now things are taking a more ominous turn.  In events
    reminiscent of Sneakers - a Hollywood film in which a hacker played by
    Robert Redford steals a code-cracking device that can break into any
    computer in the world - the Pentagon said last week it was taking "very
    seriously" claims by a group calling itself Masters of Downloading that it
    had successfully penetrated defence department computers to steal software
    controlling military communications. 
    Similar events have formed the basis of countless war games being played
    in Pentagon briefing rooms to simulate a cyber war crisis.  One of them,
    called the Day After, started with communications systems going down in
    Texas; then the systems on the railway track between Washington and New
    York failed, causing a horrific crash; the air traffic control system at
    Los Angeles airport also failed, prompting delays and cancellations at
    every big American airport. 
    The experts had to decide whether this could all be coincidence or a clear
    case of a concerted cyber attack. When the power went in four northeastern
    states, Denver's water supply dried up, the computerised records of all
    patients in Chicago's biggest hospital vanished from the screen and spy
    satellites over the Middle East were reported to be out of order, there
    could be no doubt what was going on. 
    Clinton is determined to prevent such a crisis in real life. He is
    ordering the immediate formation within the Federal Bureau of
    Investigation (FBI) of a group called the Infrastructure Protection Centre
    to warn of potential threats and gauge the vulnerability of computer
    systems to cyber attack. It is also charged with finding a way of fighting
    back in the event of an attack. Another group called the Information
    Sharing and Analysis Centre will be set up to liaise with the private
    Clinton will warn the CIA, blamed last week for failing to alert the
    government to India's nuclear tests, to make intelligence gathering on
    potential cyber terrorist threats one of its top priorities. "The
    intelligence community shall develop and implement a plan for enhancing
    collection and analysis of the foreign threat to our national
    infrastructure," says his presidential order. 
    The penalty for failure could be severe. "Massive networking makes the US
    the world's most vulnerable target," said William Studeman, former deputy
    director of the CIA. Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney-general, was
    even more blunt in her address to a Senate hearing on the subject: "We
    will have a cyber equivalent of Pearl Harbor." 
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