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Unwitting Collaborators: Series Introduction

As they reminded us in their recent article "The Dirty Dozen: 12 Security Lapses That Make Your Site an Unwitting Collaborator with Cyberterrorists," Frank Fiore and Jean François are serious about changing American attitudes and behaviors that make us easy targets for enemies foreign and domestic. This article expands on “The Dirty Dozen” and introduces a new series of studies on how to tighten up our security.
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"Anyone who is part of an industry that contributes to the national information infrastructure has a responsibility to secure their information systems."

Mark Fabro, Chief Scientist & Managing Director
Terrasec, Corporation

Up until last September, the greatest threat to corporate and organizational security had come either from within – disgruntled employees, seedy consultants, and careless employees – or from without - damaging virus strains like Nimda and Code Red.

After September 11, that all changed. Now more serious threats to our computer networks could come from politically motivated cyber-terrorists bent on disrupting our information infrastructure – or worse. Even before 9-11, security analysts were concerned about the possibility of such an attack, especially since the purported attempts by Sadaam Hussein to hire hackers during the Gulf War to attack our nation's information infrastructure. When such attacks come – and many of those in the security industry concur that it's a matter of when, not if – organizations, and in particular, businesses that make up our nation's critical information infrastructure will be the primary targets of cyber-terrorists.


Because the private sector owns or manages a large number of critical infrastructures, including banking and finance, electricity, oil and gas production, telecommunications, transportation and water supplies. In addition, the RAND Corporation noted that nearly everything the military does depends on computer driven private sector information networks. About 95% of military communications travel over the same networks used by civilians for faxes and telephoning. Each of these information nodes represents a vulnerable point of attack. Because of the importance of these infrastructures to the country's economy and their close relationship to national security, the private sector will increasingly be targeted for terrorist attacks.

That means you.

The dangers in failing to recognize the risks could be serious. And the dangers in recognizing the risks but not acting on them could be far worse.

The aim of cyberterrorism is not mass destruction per se, but 'mass disruption' of an opponent's information networks. Their aim is to damage, misuse, confuse and hijack our information and communications infrastructure that could, if gone unchecked, have far reaching and catastrophic results.

Mark Fabro, Chief Scientist & Managing Director at Terrasec, Corporation, says, "Our information infrastructure is tremendously vulnerable, and there is a low level of understanding of these vulnerabilities." He goes on to say that these vulnerabilities can be used to breach an organization's security and create limitless possibilities for assault.

And what are those vulnerabilities?

There are four. Let's call them the four horseman of the info-apocalypse - intelligence gathering, systems damage, system hijacking, and disinformation.

It is your responsibility to take action now to protect your own organization's information network which in turn will help defend our nation's infrastructure. Recognizing your duty in this new kind of war is your first step. Attackers are taking the time to map your network and find its vulnerabilities. It's your responsibility to spot those vulnerabilities first, implement protection and do your part to protect the country. Today, our public networks have become the tools of war – not merely in support of military operations.

So the question is asked. Are your computer and communications systems ready to reign in these horsemen? If not, this 14 part series will show you how not to become an Unwitting Collaborator with the enemy in this new form of 21st century warfare.



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