[ISN] San Diegans fighting new war from their computer terminals

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sun Sep 23 2001 - 23:26:17 PDT

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    Forwarded by: Clark Staten <sysopat_private>
    September 23, 2001 
    Like so much else before 9.11.01, it plays back to us now like a
    black-and-white movie. Remember the cyberspace manhunt for the kid
    computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, then on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list?
    It gripped the world in 1999, until Tsutomu Shimomura, the eccentric
    genius at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, finally outsmarted the
    kid and ended his knockdown raids on U.S. corporations and
    What's changed since then in computer terrorism and counterterrorism?
    Everything, but not as much as we might wish.
    The hero Shimomura left the supercomputer campus to live at Lake
    Tahoe. "One of the smartest people on the planet," as colleague Sid
    Karin calls him, Shimomura is revered as a master computer sleuth and
    takes on only cases that intrigue him.
    And Mitnick? Out of jail now, he conducts an early-morning computer
    show on Los Angeles radio.
    Meanwhile, computer encryption has become the workaday mask of
    terrorism. Federal surveillance of the Internet has become a covert
    industry. This nation's 13 federal intelligence agencies are being
    told to streamline and cooperate in war.
    Two days after the attacks in New York and Washington, the Combating
    Terrorism Act of 2001 was introduced as an amendment to a federal
    appropriations bill and quietly passed the Senate. It may become part
    of the legislative package coming to Congress from Attorney General
    John Ashcroft. Section 832 is at its crux: It would enhance the U.S.
    government's powers to spy on suspects' communications in cyberspace.
    In the short space of two years since Kevin Mitnick was on the run
    across America like a fleeing train robber, this is not entertainment
    anymore. This is a war for the life of the world's most powerful
    nation. Yet under restrictions against such undercover spy networks as
    those from which John Le Carre wrote magic yarns, our 13 intelligence
    agencies now may garner as much as 70 percent of their information
    from open source intelligence Web sites (OSINT).
    You may sample these Web sites, recently devoted largely to rescue and
    anti-terrorism efforts, by logging on to http://www.intellnet.org, or
    http://www.emergency.com. So can Kevin Mitnick and the rest of the
    world, including hackers who in recent days have bedeviled the
    Chicago-based emergency.com with viruses and so-called Trojan horses,
    even damaging one of their servers.
    One reasonably wonders: Are these Osama bin Laden's hackers?
    Both in secret intelligence personnel and in institutional power like
    that of UCSD, the Supercomputer Center and the FBI's Regional Computer
    Forensic Lab, San Diego is in the midst of America's war against
    computer terrorism. Some online slip that renders bin Laden vulnerable
    would stand in history like the code breaking that helped make the
    Allies victors in World War II.
    These are pivotal intelligence matters about which most sensible
    Americans would prefer, for the moment, to know rather less than more.
    It is enough to know that there are formidable San Diegans already
    long active at the top of this curve.
    At the Supercomputer Center, Tom Perrine leads the security group. He
    recently was honored quietly in law enforcement and intelligence
    circles as San Diego's private sector investigator of the year. A year
    earlier, the same award went to Abraham Singer, a programmer analyst
    at the Supercomputer Center. (Each year, one award goes to a law
    enforcement officer and one to the private sector.)
    Erin Kenneally, an administrative specialist at the center who is also
    a lawyer, is especially revered among San Diego judges. She
    specializes in computer forensics. Defense attorneys in computer
    criminal cases manage usually to arrive in court well enough versed in
    computerspeak. Judges call on her to provide seminars to bring them up
    to speed.
    Also at the center, Mihir Bellare, an associate professor, focuses on
    the mathematics of encryptography as a field of computer security.
    Another programmer analyst, and two colleagues -- Stefan Savage and
    Geoff Voelker -- study denial-of-service attacks in which computer
    servers are overwhelmed and disabled.
    Their work and that of thousands more may never entertain us like the
    Kevin Mitnick case. But they will help save America.
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