The head of the FBI said that cyber attack threats to US companies and the federal government are not strictly from groups in large nations such as China and Russia. Terrorists are increasingly turning to cyber attacks as a means to disrupt online security and the normal operation of the internet. Robert Mueller said, “Terrorists have shown a clear interest in pursuing hacking skills and they will either train their own recruits or hire outsiders with an eye toward combining physical attacks with cyber attacks,” according to Reuters. That means, he said, that groups like al Qaeda have increased their interest in the internet as a weapon.
The comments muddy the waters about who is to blame for attacks on US companies which are now estimated to have compromised the online systems of half of the 1,000 largest firms in America. Hackers inside China and cyber-criminals who form a sort of “online Mafia” bent on taking money from banks and companies via the internet have been blamed for the attacks.
Michael Chertoff, a former secretary at the US Department of Homeland Security, recently said that the Chinese and Russian governments may not be behind attacks on firms including Google. Individual groups inside those nations and others may be coordinating the attacks without the knowledge or aid of their governments. Chertoff was quoted by The Guardian as saying that current cybersecurity policies were a “recipe for disaster” that could inadvertently encourage a virtual attack equal to “the next Pearl Harbor.” But the enemies, whomever they are, live in the shadows which makes them harder to combat.
Cyber attacks, if the experts are to be believed, can be the work of criminals, sovereign nations, or political factions which have no ties to any government. As the threat of the attacks grows, so does the list of possible suspects. The attacks are complex and now so is the process of assigning motives for them.
It is impossible to fight what can’t be seen especially when that it’s added to a list of reasons for the attacks that cannot be deciphered
Douglas A. McIntyre
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