[ISN] U.S. and Europe unprepared for cyber attack

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Nov 5 03:16:40 EST 2004


By Bernhard Warner
European Internet Correspondent
4 November, 2004 

BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Future widescale terror attacks will be
executed by a person sitting behind a computer, not necessarily by a
suicide truck bomber or plane hijacker, a United States lawmaker
predicted on Thursday.

Counter-terrorism agents are grappling with a new type of security
threat -- a malicious piece of computer code capable of disabling the
world's critical infrastructure from power grids to air traffic
control networks.

"If you're a terrorist, you don't even need the bombs. If you can
control the (power) grids, if you can do it from a computer somewhere,
you can do a lot of damage," U.S. congressman Tom Davis, a co-chair of
the U.S government's Information Technology Working Group, told
Reuters in an interview.

"We're nervous about it," the Virginia Republican said. "The U.S. is
not where we need to be on defending against this (type of threat).  
Europe is not where they need to be on this.

"You don't want to wait for a cyber Pearl Harbor."

With the U.S. elections over, a victorious Davis has come to Europe to
discuss further collaboration between America and the European Union
on fortifying information networks against increasingly damaging cyber


Davis said he would like to see America spend more of its $60 billion
annual IT budget on network security-related measures. And, he said,
he'd like to see more of that money flow to European and overseas
technology companies.

He said European and Israeli technology firms may be perfectly suited
to win more security contracts from the U.S. government because these
regions have been dealing with domestic terrorism for longer.

"There is some interesting expertise here," he said following a
keynote speech at a security conference in this Spanish coastal city.

Moreover, he said, the U.S. has run up an $8 billion trade surplus in
IT products and services.

"That's all the more reason our government shouldn't just say 'buy
American'. That just invites retaliation," he said, adding that as the
world's largest consumer of IT products, the U.S. government should
shop around for the best software at the best price.

But an equally urgent matter is for the Bush administration to bolster
ties with Europe in the area of cyber defences, he said.

He pointed to a growing level of denial-of-service attacks on Web
sites and online con jobs that appear to be the work of organised
crime as a sign more international policing efforts are needed.

If some of these cyber tools fall into the hands of extremist groups,
he continued, they could be turned into weapons used to interrupt

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