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[] Experts: Don't dismiss cyberattack warning,

Computerworld muss nochmal nachlegen (vgl.
<>) - na klar, wenn
man ein Exklusivinterview mit einem Verbündeten von Bin Laden hat, muss
sich das auch lohnen.
"a number of Islamists, some of them close to al-Qaeda, have developed
expertise in computer science" heisst aber noch lange nicht, dass sie
auch wirklich in kritische Infrastrukturen eindringen können.
"There are millions of Muslims around the world involved in hacking the
Pentagon and Israeli government sites" ist ebenfalls höchstens
Wie gehabt: Mehr heisse Luft als reale Bedrohung. Jedenfalls nach den
hier präsentierten Fakten zu urteilen.

Experts: Don't dismiss cyberattack warning

NOVEMBER 18, 2002

Security experts and two former CIA officials said today that warnings
of cyberattacks by al-Qaeda against western economic targets should not
be taken lightly. 

Vince Cannistraro, the former chief of counterterrorism at the CIA, said
that a number of Islamists, some of them close to al-Qaeda, have
developed expertise in computer science. 

"And some are well schooled in how to carry out cyberattacks," he said.
"We know from material retrieved from [al-Qaeda] camps in Afghanistan
that this is true. But their expertise seems mostly dedicated to
communicating securely among al-Qaeda cells. Cyberattacks would probably
render them less secure by focusing attention on their location." 

In an exclusive interview with Computerworld on Monday, Sheikh Omar
Bakri Muhammad, a London-based fundamentalist Islamic cleric with known
ties to Osama bin Laden, said al-Qaeda and various other fundamentalist
Muslim groups around the world are actively planning to use the Internet
as a weapon in their "defensive" jihad, or holy war, against the West. 

Bakri, founder of the London-based group Jama'at Al-Muhajirun and the
spokesman for Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad
Against Jews and Crusaders (see story), said all types of technology,
including the Internet, are being studied for use against the West. 

"In a matter of time you will see attacks on the stock market," he said,
referring specifically to the markets in New York, London and Tokyo. 

His comments represent the first time that a high-profile radical Muslim
cleric with known links to bin Laden has spoken publicly about the use
of cybertactics for offensive purposes. 

Cyberterrorism experts offered mixed views of whether such attacks
could, or would, be carried out. Cannistraro, for example, called Bakri
a "fire breather" with no special insight into al-Qaeda operations or

But they stressed that the threat should not be dismissed out of hand. 

According to Bakri, a Syrian-born Muslim cleric whom the FBI and British
intelligence have tied to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers and others
seeking flight training in the U.S., Islam justifies the use of "all
types of technologies" in the defense of Muslim lands, including
psychological and economic weapons "or a weapon of mass destruction." 

Jihad groups around the world are very active on the Internet, Bakri
said, speaking from a cell phone near his north London office. And while
his group, Jama'at Al-Muhajirun, is primarily focused on supporting the
political goals of Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups, Bakri said
the military wings of these various groups are also using and studying
the Internet for their own operations. 

"That is what al-Qaeda is skillful with," said Bakri. "I would not be
surprised if tomorrow I hear of a big economic collapse because of
somebody attacking the main technical systems in big companies," he
said, referring to an ongoing threat of an attack. 

Michael Caloyannides, a senior fellow at Mitretek Systems Inc., in Falls
Church, Va., and a former CIA scientist, said the skills required to
launch a strategic cyberattack with devastating economic consequences
are far different from what terrorist groups have focused on in the
past. However, the Internet remains "very vulnerable" to serious
disruptions, including those focusing on domain name servers, border
gateway protocol routers and various single points of failure, said

"While the Internet was originally designed and configured to be
survivable, its transformation to a commercial entity has caused it to
become economically efficient at the expense of no longer being anywhere
near as survivable," said Caloyannides. 

He said any such attack launched by al-Qaeda or in direct support of
al-Qaeda could have a significant impact on the Bush administration's
war on terrorism. In particular, Caloyannides warned of potentially dire
consequences for any nation that knowingly allows such an attack to be
launched from systems and networks within its borders. "Any country that
allows its territory to be used for a massive Internet attack on the
U.S. may want to think twice of the likely consequences," he said. 

In April, the CIA sent an analysis paper to the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence outlining the cyberthreat posed by international
terrorist groups, particularly al-Qaeda. 

"Cyberwarfare attacks against our critical infrastructure systems will
become an increasingly viable option for terrorists as they become more
familiar with these targets and the technologies required to attack
them," the CIA paper stated. "Various terrorist groups, including
al-Qa'ida [sic] and Hizballah, are becoming more adept at using the
Internet and computer technologies. These groups have both the
intentions and the desire to develop some of the cyberskills necessary
to forge an effective cyber attack modus operandi." 

To date, al-Qaeda's cybercapabilities have been the subject of much
debate. Most Internet security professionals have doubted such groups'
interest in cybertactics on the grounds that physical bombings and other
forms of attack provide the fear and bloodshed that al-Qaeda is looking
for. However, in recent statements made by bin Laden, the terror leader
has shown a clear desire to inflict catastrophic damage on the U.S.
economy as a way to force the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from
Afghanistan and to curtail its support for Israel. 

"There are millions of Muslims around the world involved in hacking the
Pentagon and Israeli government sites," said Bakri. "The struggle will
continue," he said, referring to the millions of young bin Laden
supporters who are now studying computer science as a way to support the

"I believe that Osama bin Laden has earned his leadership and most
[Muslim students] who are graduating in computer science and computer
programming and IT technology are supporting Osama bin Laden," Bakri

"I would advise those who doubt al-Qaeda's interest in cyberweapons to
take Osama bin Laden very seriously," he said. "The third letter from
Osama bin Laden a few months ago was clearly addressing using the
technology in order to destroy the economy of the capitalist states. 

"This is a matter that is very clear, and Osama bin Laden must be taken
very seriously." 

Just last week, an intelligence threat assessment by Chantilly,
Va.-based iDefense Inc. of pro-Islamic, pro-al-Qaeda hacking activity
raised concerns about the ongoing development of malicious code by
hackers, particularly those based in Malaysia, who are sympathetic to
the cause of radical Islamic terrorist groups. 

One hacker who goes by the handle "Melhacker" is thought to be
responsible for the Nedal worm ("Laden" spelled backwards). Analysis of
the worm conducted by iDefense found that it contained encrypted code
and numerous Muslim names whose significance is unclear, as well as at
least one and possibly two references to al-Qaeda. 

"While this does not prove a direct link to al-Qaeda, it certainly shows
empathy to the terrorist organization and an apparent willingness to act
on their behalf," the iDefense study concludes. 

Melhacker is also reportedly working on a new mega-worm that has been
referred to as a "3-in-one." According to iDefense's director of threat
intelligence, Jim Melnick, the worm will supposedly combine features of
SirCam, Klez and Nimda and will be named Scezda. 

"This should be viewed as a major threat," wrote Melnick in the iDefense
study. "The continuing development of malicious code from pro-Islamic
and pro-al-Qaeda hackers, especially in Malaysia, is of great concern,
and one that needs to be closely watched." 

The public threat from Bakri may be part of the attack. Steven
Aftergood, a defense and intelligence analyst at the Federation of
American Scientists in Washington, said statements such as Bakri's are
"themselves a crude form of information warfare," intended to incite,
alarm and confuse. "They need to be viewed dispassionately in that
light," said Aftergood. 

"There is always room for improvement in information systems security,"
he said. "And it would be prudent to take the existence of an
adversarial threat seriously." 

Officials at the White House said Richard Clarke, chairman of the
President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, and his vice
chairman, Howard Schmidt, are unavailable for comment.

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