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Cyberterrorism

A report issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1998 states that "cyberterrorists are plotting all manner of heinous attacks that, if successful, could destabilize and eventually destroy targeted states and societies.... Information warfare specialists at the Pentagon estimate that a properly prepared and well-coordinated attack by fewer than 30 computer virtuosos strategically located around the world, with a budget of less than $10 million, could bring the U.S. to its knees. At the top of the list of rogue cyberterrorists is Osama bin Laden."

Computers are key in bin Laden's arsenal, says the CSIS report. The report goes on to say, "In today's electronic environment, many haters can become a Saddam Hussein and take on the world's most technologically vulnerable nation. This is no longer the stuff of science fiction. America's adversaries know that the country's real assets are in electronic storage, not in Fort Knox." CSIS counts eight countries with cyberwarfare capabilities as advanced as ours. "Cybercrime ... Cyberterrorism ... Cyberwarfare ...," CSIS, 1998.)

Just recently (October 20, 2001), San Francisco's KRON News 4 reported that there were 120 coordinated cyberattacks uncovered in the past year, originating from New York and Yugoslavia. Interestingly, those attacks stopped on September 10, 2001.

While information warfare attacks can take on many forms, there are four main categories: data attacks, software attacks, hacking, and physical attacks. Data attacks include propaganda, disinformation, data overload, spam, and do-loop triggers. In this case, the attacker's main objective is exploitation, the extraction of information or intelligence from the target or resources connected to the target. Software attacks include viruses, Trojan horses, and trap doors. The main objective in this case is deception. The goal of the attacker is to allow the target to continue operations but to manipulate the information that the target collects, generates, carries, or analyzes. Hacking deals with seizing control of an information system with the intention of interacting with its workings to cause mischief, fraud, theft, deception, destruction, or some other harm. The goal is not to destroy the target, but to put it out of operation or make it unreliable for some period of time. Physical attacks are the realm of physical assaults, using bombing, military assaults, and civil mayhem as tools of destruction. The attacker's objective here is destruction: rendering the target inoperable by destroying either the target itself or the support systems that it requires.

It is true that many of these activities have been around for a long time. The difference is that information technology and the world's dependence on information systems have reached critical mass. Because information systems are so vital, information warfare has become an operation activity in its own right.

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