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Adding perspectives Re: [ISN] Cyber terrorism is 'fantasy'
From: InfoSec News (isnc4i.org)
Date: Tue Dec 04 2001 - 02:23:51 CST
Forwarded from: Fred Villella <NDIaol.com>
Usually William's "rants" are valuable (and that is often) for NDI
Training classes, which are designed to improve the understanding of
the challenges we face. When NDI (one of the first) introduced hackers
to the legitimate government stage, it was not to reap huge benefits
or indorse Hacking, it was to inform.
Getting into that was hazardous and I was attacked with some falsely
misrepresented misinformation. However, there was a lot to learn and
still is, on that topic and it helps understand the capabilities of
Several years ago I did a lot of early work in Terrorism and response
at the state, local and federal levels. And worked with the top
international Terrorism experts. Real experts who faced real terror in
There was a lot to be learned and those interests remain very high on
my list. That early introduction helped me start the federal focus on
International Terrorism Preparedness in the early 80s and later put
together the first Training manual with color pictures of the
I appreciate the dialogue you guys have begun. & believe that
discourse is needed. There are a lot of pseudo experts and
misdirections that need to be surfaced and dealt with by revealing the
facts-the truth..and often the unpleasant.
Being emotional or critical is understandable. But not always helpful;
but the loss of so many lives merits whatever it takes to stay awake
on this topic and get some positive perspectives that motivate
The essence of Terrorism will always remain focused on two key things from
our view: 1. Intelligence and 2. Managing the consequences.
Hopefully the discourse you have started will continue. Obviously it
remains a serious concern to the nation. I admit having retreated
from a previous concentration on this subject, largely because of
complacency out there.. It is a topic we did not want to hear about.
NDI has started a modest course effort on an introduction to Cyber
Terror and hopefully that will help get some focus at the operational
levels. It is truly a modest initiative.
There has been some national discourse for sometime on the topics. The
attendance at some of the conferences and funded STUDIES have been a
good business for many.
And there are a lot of charlatans and a lot of contracts let by well
meaning folks in government and industry.
We do somehow have to provide these well meaning functionaries with
good perspectives and guidance. That also includes those who must be
Oracles of Delphi on the topic, because their responsibility is to
take a position and fulfill a mission.
That includes a lot of people. Dan Verton and William Knowles et al
should be encouraged to continue the dialogue and hope that it grows
and helps us all reach a prudent and productive set of national and
even personal priorities to deal with this beast... that will never go
away. Thanks Dan and William and others for taking the time to deal
with the topic. It remains urgent.
New Dimensions International
In a message dated 12/3/01 3:20:31 AM Pacific Standard Time, isnc4i.org
Forwarded from: Dan Verton <Dan_Vertoncomputerworld.com>
From: Dan Verton, senior writer, Computerworld, and former intelligence
Rosenberger is right on many points. This is something I have been
writing about for more than a year and have even put Mr. Clarke on the
spot in a public forum and got him to reverse on the use of the term
cyber-terrorism (see CNN
I aired my concerns about the misguided use of language when it comes
to discussions of cyber threats at the recent Black Hat briefings in
Las Vegas. I watched as several so-called "visionaries" of the
computer industry chuckled at my protestations that the phrase
cyber-terrorism is a product of individuals with a vested interest in
promoting fear and such a term demonstrates a profound ignorance of
what terrorism is all about and what the future of terrorism is
believed to hold.
The more sophisticated view of national cyber security, however,
accepts the possibility of a large-scale, surprise cyber hiccup or
limited infrastructure attack (that, yes, may have a ripple effect on
other sectors), but rejects the notion of planes falling out of the
sky, nationwide train derailments or environmental disasters at the
click of a mouse. Sophisticated observers also accept the threat of
massive Internet-based bank fraud and the impact such incidents could
have on the stock market. But they reject the notion that terrorists
have all of a sudden come to value virtual bombs as opposed to the
fear generated by images of bleeding children on the nightly news.
Terrorism, as we in the U.S. have come to know it, is a form of
violence that strikes fear in the hearts and minds of people because
of its destructive power and its ability to wreak havoc and physical
pain on unsuspecting, innocent people. Few people will ever forget the
horrific scenes from Lockerbie, Scotland, where in 1988 a bomb ripped
apart Pan Am Flight 103 in mid air, killing all 270 passengers.
Likewise, the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut,
Lebanon, that killed 241 Marines and Sailors, and more than 100
others, serves as a timeless reminder of what the destructive forces
of terrorism are all about. The same can be said of the 1995 bombing
of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,
which killed 168 and wounded more than 500.
You would think with all of the talk about how much of a "surprise"
Sept. 11 was (it was not) that our language surrounding so-called
cyber-terrorism and information "warfare" would have evolved somewhat.
The problem is that we have a large number of neophyte intelligence
and warfare experts in the computer industry perpetuating the use of
this misguided terminology. Its use does not advance our understanding
of terrorism or warfare for that matter. It dilutes our understanding
of the terrorist's intent -- intent is a concept that novices in
intelligence and warfare do not readily grasp. Nor do they grasp the
importance of building a capabilities matrix based on intent and
intelligence requirements to conduct something like a cyber
What we are stuck with, however, is terminology that has been
perpetuated by individuals with a vested interest in promoting fear --
and that goes for both the government and industry.
I'll end with this interesting observation on the problem: I just
finished reading a book on Information warfare by an industry type who
has no formal training in any aspect of warfare, intelligence or the
like. Although the book attempted to take the military concept of IW
and apply it to private industry, how can anybody pretend to do that
without a serious understanding of the first part of that equation?
There's our problem.
InfoSec News <isnc4i.org> on 11/30/2001 07:14:50 AM
Please respond to InfoSec News <isnc4i.org>
cc: (bcc: Dan Verton/Computerworld)
Subject: RE: [ISN] Cyber terrorism is 'fantasy'
Forwarded from: Junkmail Rosenberger <junkmailbarnowl.com>
I reject Knowles' argument out-of-hand. He misses the point when he asserts
"[who] would have thought that someone would have hijacked commercial
jetliners and used them as cruise missiles."
The simple fact is that terrorists *always* had the ability to turn planes
into cruise missiles; their effectiveness as flying bombs merely grew in
proportion to their fuel payload. On the other hand, Cluley & I & others
insist no one [yet] has the ability to destroy America with a computer virus
(read http://Vmyths.com/rant.cfm?id=410&page=4 for starters). We can
therefore sum up Knowles' misguided argument as follows:
--> "commercial aircraft as bomb" is VERY feasible but NOT likely;
--> "computer virus as bomb" is NOT feasible but VERY likely.
Knowles & others (e.g. Michael Vatis, Richard Clarke) could validate their
cyber-terrorism arguments with just one -- I repeat, ONE -- technologically
feasible idea for destroying America with a computer virus.
Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths editor
Truth about computer virus hysteria
[WK Note: One problem I have is occasionally I don't make myself clear
in my commentary on ISN, this can be attributed to lack of sleep, lack
of RedBull in the fridge, and the thought of business travel. There
are others, but I'd have to sleep on that.
> I guess Cluley thinks the same about landmines too, if one is not
> careful where placing them and mapping their location, one could
> also very well be a victim, but viruses like landmines make for
> great force multipliers for a cyberterrorist."
What I was meaning to say is that I don't expect the Internet to melt
down over one virus, but that the tactical use of viruses would be one
weapon of several that a cyberterrorist would likely use to create
mayhem. Just as you would use landmines, razor wire, & interlocking
fields of machinegun fire to slow your enenmy down.
> I am not looking forward to the day of when we see a simultaneous
> cross-platform, multiple vulnerability virus that would have the
> AV companies pulling their hair out trying to find a solution, and
> then able to push that software update onto networks severely
> choked with a combination of DDoS attacks, virus traffic, network
> outages, and major DNS servers down from repeated hacking attacks.
I agree with Rob that Usama is not interested in melting your MP3's,
Russian pr0n pics, or mailing out everyone in your Outlook address
book 'I send this for your advice' with a virus, Usama wants you dead.
I have yet to see anyone bring up cyberterrorism with regular
terrorism, and that is another point that I should make clear here, I
have always belived (along with a few others) that cyberterrorism
would be used first before a large scale terrorist attack.
Slowing down or stopping commerical, goverment, and military networks
along with the interdependence of the Internet would cripple the basic
command and control of government and first responders to a major
But enough of me ranting on, I have to get some sleep and run to
Costco for another case of RedBull. - William Knowles 9.30.01]
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