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From: InfoSec News (isn_at_c4i.org)
Date: Fri Feb 28 2003 - 00:53:39 CST
NBC 6 News Team
February 26, 2003
MIAMI -- Just two weeks ago, Florida homeland security officials tried
to assure the public that the state's power plants, water facilities
and other infrastructure are safe.
Now the federal homeland security chief says Florida's plans might not
be good enough.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge addressed the nation's utilities
commissioners on Wednesday, telling them that security is not yet good
enough at many critical facilities like power plants.
Ridge said that effective immediately, his department would put an
increased emphasis on protecting the nation's infrastructure --
especially telecommunications and utilities -- both of which could be
prime terrorist targets according to the federal government.
"You do damage potentially to the grid, and you have affected how a
community can operate." Ridge warned. "What you do with systems that
are interdependent (will) have far-reaching consequences on a
community or a region."
Ridge said the Homeland Security Department has two new units
dedicated to improving the detection and prevention of terrorist
Without increased security, experts fear that terrorists could gain
access to critical infrastructure. And it isn't just terrorists who
could find it easy to gain access. Recently, a small Massachusetts
airport closed temporarily when hackers shut off its electricity after
tapping into the local power company's electrical grid.
And in Arizona recently, a 12-year-old boy broke into the computer
that runs one of that state's dams, and operated the floodgates.
According to federal statistics, 70 percent of the nation's power
plants, including nuclear plants, reported being hacked in the past
"Any 13-year-old with an Internet connection and a little spare time
can be a hacker," cyberterrorism expert. Paul Henry said. "Why
wouldn't an al-Qaida operative take that same opportunity?"
Ridge said the target opportunities for terrorists are endless.
"We have nearly 3,000 power plants (in the United States), over 3000
water reservoirs, 2 million miles of oil and gas lines, 800,000 miles
of sewer lines goes on and on," Ridge said, calling the potential
targets "critical infrastructure."
With the United States on high alert for potential terrorist attacks,
the nation's seaports have stepped up security, particularly since
some experts say the ports are more vulnerable than airports.
At some ports, including the Port of Miami, X-ray scanners are now
being used to search cargo trucks.
The Homeland Security Department is also looking at new technologies,
including neutron beam scanners that experts say can spot dangerous
material such as explosives in ship containers.
On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security will absorb 175,000
new employees from 28 federal agencies including customs, immigration,
border patrol and the Coast Guard.
Security experts hope the new agency can close some of the gaps in
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