http://www.nbc6.net/news/2006932/detail.html Ike Seamans NBC 6 News Team February 26, 2003 MIAMI -- Just two weeks ago, Florida homeland security officials tried to assure the public that the state's power plants, water facilities and other infrastructure are safe. Now the federal homeland security chief says Florida's plans might not be good enough. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge addressed the nation's utilities commissioners on Wednesday, telling them that security is not yet good enough at many critical facilities like power plants. Ridge said that effective immediately, his department would put an increased emphasis on protecting the nation's infrastructure -- especially telecommunications and utilities -- both of which could be prime terrorist targets according to the federal government. "You do damage potentially to the grid, and you have affected how a community can operate." Ridge warned. "What you do with systems that are interdependent (will) have far-reaching consequences on a community or a region." Ridge said the Homeland Security Department has two new units dedicated to improving the detection and prevention of terrorist attacks. Without increased security, experts fear that terrorists could gain access to critical infrastructure. And it isn't just terrorists who could find it easy to gain access. Recently, a small Massachusetts airport closed temporarily when hackers shut off its electricity after tapping into the local power company's electrical grid. And in Arizona recently, a 12-year-old boy broke into the computer that runs one of that state's dams, and operated the floodgates. According to federal statistics, 70 percent of the nation's power plants, including nuclear plants, reported being hacked in the past year. "Any 13-year-old with an Internet connection and a little spare time can be a hacker," cyberterrorism expert. Paul Henry said. "Why wouldn't an al-Qaida operative take that same opportunity?" Ridge said the target opportunities for terrorists are endless. "We have nearly 3,000 power plants (in the United States), over 3000 water reservoirs, 2 million miles of oil and gas lines, 800,000 miles of sewer lines goes on and on," Ridge said, calling the potential targets "critical infrastructure." With the United States on high alert for potential terrorist attacks, the nation's seaports have stepped up security, particularly since some experts say the ports are more vulnerable than airports. At some ports, including the Port of Miami, X-ray scanners are now being used to search cargo trucks. The Homeland Security Department is also looking at new technologies, including neutron beam scanners that experts say can spot dangerous material such as explosives in ship containers. On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security will absorb 175,000 new employees from 28 federal agencies including customs, immigration, border patrol and the Coast Guard. Security experts hope the new agency can close some of the gaps in security. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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