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Published:April 1st, 2009 10:38 EST
Cyber Terrorism Looms Large: The Attack That Never Came

Cyber Terrorism Looms Large: The Attack That Never Came

By Krzys Wasilewski

Will November 11 be remembered as another day when terrorists struck a lethal blow to the democratic world? Since the events of 9/11, we have ceased to believe that there are no indestructible buildings or borders that religious fanatics wouldn`t cross to achieve their goal. But are we really prepared for an attack on the cyberland? Some experts believe we are not.

Cyber TerrorismOn the Internet, communication runs much faster than in the real world. So when someone spreads rumors that Islamic jihadists were planning a cyber attack on US governmental agencies, the entire virtual world became alarmed. As Dark Reading, a website on Internet security, wrote on October 31, Osama Bin Laden and his followers [were] planning a massive cyber attack on Western targets in less than two weeks. " According to the website, some intelligence sources had found out that a terrorist organization had selected 15 targets it would hack first, and untold more " to be affected later. The attack was to take place on November 11.

The date selection could hardly be coincidental. Two months after the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, terrorists might strike again.

Several months before the Dark Reading broke the story, PBS had broadcast a program on cyber war. Computer and military experts answered the questions posted by viewers. However, it was not what the specialists had to say, but what ordinary Internet users asked about. Comments posted after the program reflected the general fear throughout the World Wide Web. One network security officer wrote: It is sad to say this but like most of our security practices in the
USA, we take the reactive approach and are always worried about cost. " A viewer from Houston, Texas, stated, We could be without power for up to six months in some scenarios. Six months?! "

Although not as spectacular as real bombings, cyber attacks can be just as destructive. The author of the Dark Reading article quoted an Israeli news agency, which predicted that terrorists might use software called Electronic Jihad Version 2.0. Launched from very few computers from anywhere in the world, the program could quickly attack dozens of important governmental agencies` networks. In other words, Electronic Jihad is a virtual small airplane, which could cause more damage to America than two hijacked Boeings.

Despite these alarming reports, experts advise to remain calm. An online version of Computerworld, one of the leading computer magazines, cites one computer specialist saying, I`m not looking at Nov. 11 as being the day that the Internet goes down. " His opinion seems to be shared by the majority of the business. Gadi Evron, a security expert, downplays the threat. It`s a community-driven tabloid. Treat it as a golden source to be taken with 5 grains of salt, " he tells PC World Magazine.

That a cyber attack can cause a lot of problems was recently realized by the small Baltic
republic of Estonia. In May 2007, governmental websites were blocked for several days, probably by hackers operating from Russia. Estonia and Russia had been on the verge of a political war and many suspected that the Kremlin orchestrated the attack. The fact that the blockade cost Estonia dozens of billions of dollars and that suspects have not been caught since then, proved how effective cyber wars could be.

Hundreds of computers are hacked every day. However, November 11, 2007 - if the attack comes true - may be a fateful day in the history of cyber terrorism. We can`t feel safe at our homes, we can`t feel safe at work, and we can`t feel safe on the streets. After November 11, 2007, we might not feel safe in front of our computers.


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