[ISN] Prospect of Iraq conflict raises new cyberattack fears

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sun Sep 29 2002 - 23:20:00 PDT

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    SEPTEMBER 27, 2002
    If history is a guide, any Bush administration plan to remove Saddam
    Hussein from power in Iraq would likely set off a firestorm of hacker
    activity targeting U.S. networks and infrastructure. And those attacks
    could be greater in number and affect a broader cross-section of U.S.  
    businesses than anything seen before, according to intelligence
    Surges in cyberattack activity have typically accompanied major
    international crises during the last several years, including the
    Arab-Israeli conflict, the war in Kosovo and the collision of a U.S.  
    spy plane with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea last
    However, any significant expansion of the U.S.-led war against
    terrorism, including an invasion of Iraq, could unleash an
    unprecedented wave of hacker activity, intelligence and security
    experts said.
    Eric Shaw, a former psychological profiler at the CIA, said he will be
    watching for increases in activity from specific threat groups.
    "Islamic hacking groups have been uniting over the India-Pakistan and
    Israeli-Palestine [conflicts] and they are traditionally Iraq
    supporters and anti-U.S. and anti-Israel," said Shaw, who now works as
    a cybersecurity consultant at Stroz Associates LLC in New York.
    A second group includes a mixture of U.S. and European-based antiwar
    hackers, said Shaw. "Think about [groups] of young, liberal, elite,
    Western-educated youth [coming out] against the war. It would be a lot
    smaller than the Vietnam generation but could still be potent," he
    Moreover, a ground war in Iraq could spur other governments in the
    region to launch sophisticated state-sponsored information warfare
    campaigns. That's the conclusion of a study published two weeks after
    the Sept. 11 attacks by the Institute for Security Technology Studies
    at Dartmouth College.
    Ruth David, former director of science and technology at the CIA and
    now CEO of Analytic Services Inc. in Arlington, Va., said an
    orchestrated attack exploiting well-known vulnerabilities could be
    launched with little regard for precise targeting, and could cause
    significant disruption and financial loss to the "softest targets,"  
    the bulk of which are in the private sector.
    "Ironically, a serious attack of this type may engender even greater
    public support for any military action under way and is unlikely to
    seriously impede our ability to achieve military objectives," said
    The Bush administration has formally stated that it is the policy of
    the U.S. to respond to cyberattacks by any means appropriate,
    including military action.
    "Such an attack could significantly debilitate U.S. and allied
    information networks," the Dartmouth study concluded. That report was
    written under the guidance of Michael Vatis, a former director of the
    FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center.
    The real change associated with such a widespread cyberconflict is the
    likely expansion of the types of hacker targets, said John Pescatore,
    an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. In addition to
    government and military networks, a U.S. invasion of Iraq would likely
    lead to the targeting of news media organizations, said Pescatore.
    "Given how media-savvy the Middle East has become, I'd expect to see
    the large newspaper and television news sites targeted for both
    propaganda-planting and denial-of-service attacks," he said.
    A global cyberconflict is also likely to affect companies that are
    considered American cultural icons, such as Microsoft Corp., American
    Airlines Inc., McDonald's Corp. and other multinational companies
    known for their U.S. roots, said Pescatore.
    "Since Sept. 11, companies have had to re-examine the various types of
    crises that can impact them, from bioterrorism to computer terrorism,"  
    said Steve Wilson, president of The Wilson Group, a crisis management
    consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. "However, it's not just the typical
    hacker they have to be concerned with now. They can just as easily be
    a terrorist target as any government installation."
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