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The Threat of Terrorism in Cyber Space

The Threat of Terrorism in Cyber Space

Experts believe fallout from September 11 could continue through computer infiltration. In the Internet Age, when communications speed across national boundaries, terrorist groups are winning the cyber space battle. Leading security experts predict that it is only several years before a terrorist or rouge nation is capable of an online hacker-style attack against the United States, causing massive failure of such crucial elements as banking for the financial markets, transportation systems, the power grid or telecommunications.

A cyber terrorist can range from anti-American masterminds to co-workers. Fifteen year olds are breaking into systems, but many are worried about the forty-five year old who’s mad at the world and takes a company’s intellectual property. The Defense Department acknowledges hundreds of successful cyber attacks on its networks in recent years, some of which trace back to the Persian Gulf area.

It is feared that cyber terrorists will turn our systems against us. For instance, if terrorists wanted to attack a coal-fired power plant, they might hack their way into a seemingly unrelated railroad computer system to shut down real traffic. That would prevent coal from reaching the plant. Some areas that are in danger of infiltration are: banking and financial services, telecommunications, electric power, oil and gas delivery, transportation, water, emergency services and government services. These are the essential, interdependent services upon which society relies, the kind of services upon which society relies, the kind of services that if disrupted, would create a series of cascading problems that would ripple across the nation. Cyber terrorism is not just as a future problem, but as a current threat to national security . In 1998, hackers tapped into NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory computer in Pasadena and accessed data about the commercial air traffic system. This intelligence could have told hackers the configuration of GPS navigation satellites and allowed them to jam the system during war. The hackers were also looking for information on stealth aircraft.

The United States is left vulnerable to cyber terrorism for many reasons. The United States has a woefully inadequate investment in computer security. Few top researchers have been drawn to the field of computer security, which has remained essentially unchanged in its failed approaches since its inception. The federal government has no agency that is focused on, and responsible for ensuring that the necessary research and implementation are undertaken...

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