Tags: Tenet: | Internet | Potential | Achilles | Heel'

Tenet: Internet 'A Potential Achilles Heel'

Friday, 03 December 2004 12:00 AM

Telecommunications - and specifically the Internet - are a back door through which terrorists and other enemies of the United States could attack the country, and even though great strides have been made in securing the nation's physical infrastructure, the Internet "represents a potential Achilles' heel for our financial stability and physical security if the networks we are creating are not protected," he said.

And it isn't an empty threat - America's enemies he explained, including "intelligence services, military organizations and non-state actors," are already researching information attacks against the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security has the main responsibility to protect the Internet from terrorism. But United Press International reports that the department's head of cyber-security recently quit amid reports that he had clashed with his superiors.

Tenet warned that even though its top level leadership has largely been destroyed al Qaeda remains a sophisticated group. He said he believes that the terrorist network is "undoubtedly mapping vulnerabilities and weaknesses in our telecommunications networks."

The modernization of key industries in the United States is making them more vulnerable by connecting them up with an Internet which is open to attack, he said, adding that the way the Internet was put together might be part of the problem because its wide open architecture that allows unrestricted Web surfing makes the system vulnerable.

Tenet said that access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously, he said. He called upon industry to lead the way by "establishing and enforcing "security standards. Products, he explained, need to be delivered to government and private-sector customers with a new level of security and risk management already built in."

The former C.I.A. chief has a right to be concerned experts on Cyber Warfare say.

Cyber Warfare can be destructive, according to anti-terrorism expert Richard Clarke who told a PBS Frontline special on Cyber War last March that the fact that al-Qaida has been "gathering skills in cyber war capability is very troubling, combined with the fact that we know that they're looking on the Web for hacking tools. We know that because we've seized some of their computers. It suggests to me that Al Qaeda may be trying to grow an indigenous cyber warfare capability.

"I think, it suggests that some day we may see Al Qaeda, if it's still alive and operating, use cyberspace as a vehicle for attacking infrastructure, not with bombs but with bytes.

"For an organization like al-Qaida that is looking to leverage its investment, to have the biggest possible damage for the least possible investment, cyberspace is a good bet because it doesn't cost a lot of money to develop these skills.

"You could have an effect in a number of places simultaneously, without being in those locations, and you can achieve a certain degree of anonymity and a certain degree of invulnerability to arrest [or] apprehension."

Added James Lewis of Center for Strategic and International Studies, "[al- Qaida] laptops were found with programming information and software sites for SCADA systems and other systems for power and water company sites.

"They have taken advantage of the global communications networks that we've set up, the global information networks that have appeared in the last decade, and learned how to use them to become a terrorist organization that can operate almost anywhere in the world.

"So they're a very thorough group. But at the end of the day, I think their first choice is always going to be some more powerful physical weapon. Cyber weapons just aren't a good replacement for bombs."

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Telecommunications - and specifically the Internet - are a back door through which terrorists and other enemies of the United States could attack the country, and even though great strides have been made in securing the nation's physical infrastructure, the Internet...
Tenet:,Internet,Potential,Achilles,Heel'
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2004-00-03
Friday, 03 December 2004 12:00 AM
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