The Technology Age, and the Downfall of the U.S. In today’s society, people are always trying to improve technology, but in doing so, are they creating something that can be used to create mass destruction for the United States? Everyday computers get faster, new programs are written, or some scientist finds a way to make a job be done quicker. For most people, they welcome the advancement of science to ease their lives, but it is known that technology can also be used to create havoc, and destroy human beings.
The United States is finding out that being a World Power, other countries are jealous. Most understand the word terrorism to mean bombs, and mass murders, but with the evolution of the computer age, terrorism is taking on a whole new meaning. No longer is computer hacking something from a movie, or a sci fi flick, it is now a real danger to the United States. This new technology is being called Cyber Terrorism, and is used by a variety of people. Many radical Rebel groups, and other terrorist groups are using the World Wide Web to preach propaganda, and some U.S. officials believe they are also sending encrypted e-mails detailing when there next attack will be.
The Columbian Rebel Group ELN is one of the many terrorist groups known to have a web page on the Internet. The ELN is known mainly for blowing up oil rigs in South America, and for kidnaping foreign executives. Most groups like the ELN uses the Internet to simply tell other’s around the world about there organization and to soften there image from what is heard about them in the news.
“So far it seems terrorist are not abusing the information super highway, but using it. It allows them to explain their cause directly to the people without going through the press and without Government interference.” Brain Jenkins, Terrorism expert FBI. There are at least 12 out of 30 groups on the State Departments list of terrorist organizations using the World Wide Web. The Defense Intelligence Agency, also known as the DIA has a list of at least 70 rebel sites that are on the Internet. The DIA believe some terrorist send encrypted e-mails to plan attacks. Studies have shown though, most groups just use the Internet for propaganda, which is legal under Amendment 1 in the U.S. Constitution. The fact that terrorist organizations are using the Internet show that most are quite intelligent and sophisticated.
The Government is trying to ward of terrorist attacks and better prepare the Country incase such attack should ever occur. Presidential Decision Directive 63, which is the alliance between industries and the Government to prevent terrorism and computer hacking could work, but only if both private and public sector corporations work with the Government one hundred percent. The main areas that the Government hopes will work with them on this is the power plants and the major airports in the United States. These are the two places the Government fears will be targeted. The major drawl back to this is most of the Executives in large corporations do not take the cyber risk seriously.
Just how dangerous is cyber terrorism, and what does it involve? Not long ago for a terrorist to black out New York City he would have to make physical contact with the power plant by means of bombs, or actual hands on in destroying the power grid.
This is not the case anymore. Now experts say it is very possible for a trained computer hacker to create the blackout, and even worse he could be as far away as Tehran, Iran. This hacker could also have full technological and financial backing of that foreign government. In a closed briefing to Congress, the CIA chief said at least 12 countries, some which are hostile to America are creating computer programs to attack other Nations information and computer systems. China, Libya, Russia, Iraq, and Iran are just a few that pose a serious threat to the United States. All one of these countries would have to do is create a bug that would mess up the computer systems of the United States banks, and that would sequentially destroy the U.S. Economy.
As of right now there has been only one report made of cyber targeting to the U.S. by a foreign nation. So why is the United States so worried? Most of America’s infrastructure is either driven or connected by computers. Financial networks, the flow of oil and gas through pipelines, water reservoirs, sewage treatment plants, power and air traffic control systems, telecommunications, emergency services, and the power grid to the United States are just a few examples of what is run by computers. “An adversary capable of implanting the right virus or accessing the right terminal, can cause massive damage” Tenet.
Two years ago a Swedish hacker managed to go to London, to Atlanta, and then to Florida where he rerouted and tied up phone lines in each country, put 911 services out of commission, and impeded the response of police, fire and rescue services. There are also a lot of cyber attacks within the United States, which are referred to as domestic attacks. In 1996 there was 128 cases of cyber attacks on the FBI’s files, in 1998 there were 550.
In February 1997 computer experts at the Pentagon detected an invader. Someone was hacking into the systems at Air Force and Navy bases around the U.S., leaving trap doors that would allow them to slip in and out undetected.
The top secret agency called the National Security Agency, also known as No Such Agency or the NSA tracked the intruder to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates. The hackers turned out to be just a couple of teenage boys in Cloverdale California, coached by a third teenager in Israel. The threat of information warfare is deadly serious. The Pentagon sends about 85% of it’s communication over commercial telephone lines, which are very vulnerable. Knowledgeable officials in the Government and private experts all agree the danger of cyber terrorism is very real, and present.
Foreign Intelligence services routinely break into American public and private sectors computers. Mapping power grids to find weak lines, and leaving trap door behind in just about all of the United States Military bases. India and China are particularly aggressive at this type of cyber spying. Specific details are classified, but reports hint at some serious cyber raids in the United States. One such report on the FBI’s files involved intrusion into the computer system at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, which works on Nuclear Weapons and other Top Secret projects. When the hacker was discovered, he began to cover his tracks by erasing information. Cyber-warfare experts have found “Logic Bombs”, these are programs that lie dormant for a long amount of time, then activate and eat data in various Government computer systems. Most officials believe the bombs were placed by other countries, but none will know for sure if that is the case since most attacks on Government computers are only detected 10% of the time.
The Government has simulated cyber attacks on their selves just to see how prepared they are. This war game was called Eligible Receiver. This game was run in two week period and the results are very frightening. The attack was run by a set of people using standard Internet techniques, and they could have shut down the command-and-control capability in the Pentagon for a considerable period of time.
The computer experts simply used programs widely available on the Internet to show that foreign nations can wreak electronic havoc using the darker regions of the Internet. These programs include network-scanning software, intrusion tools and password-breaking “log-in scripts.” Without any trouble the team broke into unclassified military computer networks and also gained access to systems that control the electrical power grid for the entire country. If they had wanted to, the hackers could have disabled the grid, leaving the United States literally in the dark. Knocking out the power throughout the United States was just a sideline effort, the team was actually trying to target the Pacific Command, which directs 100,000 troops who would be called on to deal with wars against North Korea or China. Out of several teams the FBI was only able to track down a couple of the teams. Over 63% of test attacks made on the Governments computer systems were not detected. Preventing hackers is like a never ending journey, one will never get there.
With worries of Y2K, and now cyber terrorism, one must wonder if saving time and energy is really worth the possible destruction of the United States, or possibly the world. With items such as Presidential Directive 63, and the war games that have been simulated on our Governments computer systems, one can only hope to become more aware of the possible dangers associated along with computer hacking. Tough laws targeted towards cyber terrorism is making some people shy away from trying to be a hacker. Just like everything else though, nothing is fool proof, and where there’s a will there is always a way.