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[] Wired ueber die Konferenz in Muenchen -

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Warum fährt Steve Kettmann extra von Berlin nach München, wenn wir ihn
auch zu unserer Konferenz eingeladen hatten? Selbst schuld.



Most Hacking Hides Real Threats 
Steve Kettmann 

MUNICH The high profile of such relatively inconsequential online
political warfare as denial-of-service attacks and playful site
defacement has the general public distracted from much graver risks.

That's especially true in Europe, according to experts, where many
Internet users are newer to the medium and less attuned to the dangers
of such threats as smart viruses.

"Do Europeans care about information warfare?" asks Christiane
Schultzki-Haddouti, a German journalist who specializes in information
warfare. "Not much. Compared to America, Europe is still sleeping."

"The media focus on the very vivid details of a hacked site," said
professor Hans-Bernd Brosius of the Department of Communication Sciences
at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, which hosted a cyberwar
conference last weekend.

"We see the blatant details, but not the systems below."

Specifically, he referred to the sort of problem presented by potential
backdoors built into software systems like the one the U.S. National
Security Agency may or may not have in most Windows operating systems,
as reported in Wired News. 

It made headlines when a kind of cyberwar erupted between China and the
United States earlier this year after a U.S. spy plane made an emergency
landing on Chinese soil, prompting a tense standoff. That blew over
quickly, although the fizzle over threatened major actions may have been
in part because U.S. corporations often do not go public with word of
successful cyberattacks, for fear of encouraging further actions. 

Do governments need to fear more of the same?

"Paradoxically, forcing terrorists off the Web is impossible, because
they set up sites in countries with free-speech laws," said Professor
Dov Shinar, head of the Hubert Burda Center for Innovative
Communications at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

That, he said, leads to some grave questions.

"Recognizing that we are in the midst of an ongoing process, can the
activities of extremist groups on the Web create even wider communities
of the like-minded than was previously possible?" he asked. "How
universal are the findings on extremist groups, that the use of slick
and professional online images ... allows the new media to break down
boundaries and create a virtual world in which groups can strategically
blur and define boundaries between themselves and other groups?"

Frank Lesiak, an analyst for Germany's Federal Information Agency, said
the focus on routine security and privacy issues diverts general
attention from much larger potential for trouble; for example, if
hostile governments or terrorists were to take a sophisticated,
long-term approach to wreaking havoc.

"We're not even hearing about the big dangers," he said. "Have you read
anything in the everyday press about crypto-viruses?" he asked. "That's
what we need to read about."

And yes, that is what Lesiak spends his nights worrying about: An
intelligent virus implanted by a military.

"Imagine a society that breaks down because the entire IT structure
breaks down," he said. "That kills people, not just bits and bytes."

Schultzki-Haddouti said the United States not only has the most to lose
from any such attacks, it also has the most to teach about them.

"Countries like Germany are importing the concept of information warfare
from the United States," she said.

Up until 1995, for example, she traced 10 U.S. developments, including
in 1992 the Pentagon's "first top secret directive TS-3600 on
'Information Warfare'" and the use of "computer network attacks" in the
U.S. operation in Haiti in 1994 to return Bertrand Aristide to power.
Over that same period, nothing much happened in Europe in this area, she

The sophisticated approach to all aspects of information warfare
reflects years of sustained attention. Even so, that does not give the
U.S. military a monopoly on cyberwar techniques, as the NATO alliance
discovered when it encountered denial-of-service attacks during the
Kosovo campaign.

"In the end, Yugoslavia stands as an example that information warfare
will become an integral part of warfare," said Schultzki-Haddouti.

She cited media reports of cyberattacks on foreign bank accounts of
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and of suspected terrorist Osama
Bin Laden as examples of how far cyberwar can be taken.

In the last two years, Germany and the rest of Europe have tried to make
up for lost time. Otto Schily, Germany's interior minister, even went so
far as to float the idea of his government waging denial-of-service
attacks against U.S. ISPs that host neoNazi content. But he later backed
off the idea. While Schily and the German government may refrain from
such drastic tactics, it's clear strategies that were once unthinkable
are getting implemented in online warfare. 

"As cybercrime is on the rise due to the development of computer
networks on a global scale, information war will be even easier to hide
in the background noise of illegal, however unrelated activities on the
network," said Lesiak, the German intelligence expert. "It's very
difficult to assess what's really going on."

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