[ISN] Terrorists could launch cyber-war

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Fri May 10 2002 - 01:32:06 PDT

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    A "CYBER jihad" could be launched against the West as terrorists moved
    from the real world to an internet-based virtual world, a US expert
    Michele Zanini, a consultant with the think-tank McKinsey and Company,
    said terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda were already making huge use of
    the web for communications, propaganda, recruitment and target data.
    Another expert, Rand Europe senior policy analyst Kevin O'Brien said
    there was potential for terrorists to cause huge losses to the West by
    damaging information technology systems.
    Dr Zanini and Dr O'Brien were speaking at an international conference
    on global terror in Hobart.
    Dr O'Brien said Western-developed IT had become the "great equaliser"  
    as it was exploited by terrorists and rogue states.
    He said the cyber world was chaotic and without boundaries and Western
    security agencies were traditionally ill-equipped to deal with its
    Both experts said newer terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Hamas were
    different to earlier ones that had been hierarchical and bureaucratic.
    Al-Qaeda was a fluid network of semi-autonomous groups, hard to pin
    down and with links to about 20 other groups.
    In the wake of September 11, it was clear terrorists were using the
    internet as a weapon of war, the experts said.
    Terrorists used the net to gather intelligence, including target
    information, and counter-intelligence.
    They made and moved money on it and were suspected of even
    manipulating stocks for profit.
    They could also use it for worldwide planning and coordination,
    propaganda, psychological terrorism and rumour-mongering.
    Rogue states could equally use it and China and Taiwan were already
    battling a cyber war, according to the experts.
    Dr O'Brien said the danger to business was of great concern, with some
    websites particularly vulnerable.
    An interruption of a few seconds on the New York foreign exchange
    market could cost billions of dollars.
    Companies could also be damaged through extortion, brand destruction
    and fraud.
    Dr O'Brien said much more co-operation and information-sharing between
    governments and business was needed to combat the threats.
    Australia, Britain and Canada had moved in this direction, but the US
    response was still hampered by agency turf wars and personal
    rivalries, he said.
    However, on the wild world of the web, there's an unlikely ally in the
    war against terror.
    Dr Zanini said traditional hackers had a quite different culture to
    terrorists and the two did not mix well.
    There was even an organisation called Hackers Against Terrorism, a
    sort of virtual vigilante group, he said.
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