Websites in the US were attacked by hackers earlier this year. The assaults slowed down some sites and closed other online services completely. It was assumed at the time that the attacks originated in North Korea and one or more countries that were part of the old Soviet Union.
McAfee (NYSE:MFE), the security software company, recently issued a report saying that the US, Russia, China, Israel, and France have built their own capacity to make cyber attacks on other nations.
Now the concern is that the next threat will come from al Qaeda.
FBI and Homeland Security officials told The Wall Street Journal that the terrorist group might target infrastructure which may include power grids and transportation systems. A successful attack could cause part of the nation’s energy delivery system to go down. It could also compromise the transportation of both people and goods. It could, in other words, damage the US economy, perhaps significantly.
Cyber attacks would move the terrorist threat from one in which al Qaeda has to move people into the US and get weapons or build them. There has long been concern that terrorists could set off a “dirty bomb” in a large city, killing large numbers of people and shut the city down.
Cyber terrorism has the advantage, for the terrorists, of being a method of damaging the US from remote locations which may be hard to detect and even harder to attack. There is little point in the US attacking al Qaeda online. It has not real infrastructure to disrupt.
The US may have invented the internet and now its enemies are preparing to use the invention against the inventor.
Douglas A. McIntyre