From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Fri Dec 05 1997 - 10:18:55 PST

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    Nice to see the UK catching up. -- MW
       Electronic Attacks On Banks A Myth
       (12/04/97; 6:00 p.m. EST)
       By Douglas Hayward, TechWeb
       LONDON -- Accusations that criminals are using high-tech weapons to
       extort hundreds of millions of dollars from banks and stock exchanges
       are "pure imagination," according to Europes largest defense electronics
       research agency.
       Gangs of criminals and hackers were said to have extorted last year more
       than $600 million from stock exchanges and major financial institutions
       across the world by threatening a variety of high-tech attacks on
       mission-critical IS systems. These threatened attacks were said to
       include hacking, virus attacks, and use of radio-frequency weapons
       capable of destroying computer systems with blasts of high energy.
       But statements that cybercriminals and terrorists have access to
       radio-frequency weapons are nonsense, according to Michael Corcoran,
       principal analyst in the information warfare group of Britains Defence
       Evaluation and Research Agency, which is responsible for developing the
       United Kingdoms electronic warfare technology.
       "There are no radio-frequency weapons out there that anyone is in a
       position to use against banks," said Corcoran at a seminar Tuesday at
       the International Center for Security Analysis in London. Radio-
       frequency weapons are not yet a point of concern, he said. "They will be
       in the future, but they are certainly not yet. The reports in some
       newspapers last year were pure imagination."
       Corcoran also blasted the idea that the United States and its allies are
       vulnerable to a strategically devastating electronic and computer-based
       attack on their national IS and communications infrastructures - a
       possibility dubbed by some defense analysts the "electronic Pearl
       Harbor" threat.
       According to this threat scenario, the increasing dependence of
       developed countries military and civilian infrastructures on networked
       computers lets terrorists and rogue nations such as Iraq cripple
       essential infrastructures through electronic attacks.
       "An electronic Pearl Harbor wont ever be possible," Corcoran said. "If
       you look at the intelligence requirements to do it, they are quite
       Tactical attacks capable of sabotaging important individual computer
       systems - such as those controlling air traffic control or water
       supplies - may be possible, Corcoran said. "But that is a tactical
       attack, not a strategic attack," he added.
       The agency is nevertheless convinced that foreign powers are already
       using hacking methods to conduct preliminary reconnaissance into the
       British militarys computer and communications systems, Corcoran said. It
       had traced at least two incidents in which military systems were
       penetrated, but computer audit trails were switched off in both systems,
       letting the hackers avoid detection.
       "We are going to be attacked," Corcoran said. "We have got to train
       people to deal with having no communications or perhaps having no
       computer system, or a much degraded system."
       Part of the problem is that Britains military systems change so rapidly
       that the Ministry of Defence does not know where the weak points are in
       its network, he added. TW

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