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Businesses prepare to combat cyberterrorism
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001 01:23:46 -0500 (CDT)


By KATHERINE PFLEGER, Associated Press 

WASHINGTON (September 21, 2001 3:25 p.m. EDT) - Some fear last week's
attacks could prompt cyberterrorists to try to disrupt the computer
world, a move that could further damage already wounded businesses.

"I don't think it's out of the realm of possibilities that
cyberterrorism could be used as one ingredient of a larger plan or
perhaps another mechanism to create disturbance," said Bob Cohen,
senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of
America, a trade group.

In the past, cyberterrorists have shown a propensity to strike during
international conflicts. Most have been minor invasions that are more
annoying than disruptive, such as defacing Web sites or "denial of
service" attacks that slow down or halt computer systems by flooding
them with information.

But there is a potential for a more skilled cyberterrorist to disrupt
systems for hospitals, power grids, banks and other key institutions.

"If we saw a truly comprehensive and destructive attack on a critical
infrastructure - where it was well-planned, well-targeted - it could
clearly have a destructive impact," said Michael Vatis, director of
the Institute for Security Technology Studies at Dartmouth College.

Lawrence Gershwin, the CIA's top adviser on science and technology
issues, told Congress in June that traditional terrorists are less
likely to pursue computer attacks. But that could change, he said.

"Bombs still work better than bytes," he told the Joint Economic
Committee. "But we anticipate more substantial cyber threats are
possible in the future as a more technically competent generation
enters the ranks."

The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center is on the lookout
for cyberterrorists and last week issued a warning about "patriot
hackers" - people trying to target those thought responsible for the
terrorist attacks.

NIPC also is investigating the "Nimda" worm, a viruslike program that
spreads rapidly and has been infecting computers running Microsoft's
Windows operating system. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said
there is no evidence linking the worm to the terrorist attacks.

Consultants like John Pescatore, research director for Internet
security at Gartner Inc., have been advising clients on how to handle
cyberterrorism threats, which he expects will occur if the U.S.
military begins assaults on terrorist camps in Afghanistan and

"It's the low-hanging fruit," Pescatore said. And "companies haven't
made much progress against denial of service attacks."

He and other experts are advising companies to take steps now to avoid
problems later. Among them: make sure they have the most recent
antivirus software, install security programs that include firewalls
and encryption and increase user awareness.

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