VISUAL NEWSLETTER – SEP 2001           

 


TERROR ON THE INTERNET

 

The horrific events of September 11th in New York and Washington have brought the internet into focus as a source of information for terrorists and an avenue of attack for the cyber terrorist.  The internet is a wide open information highway conveying huge amounts of information from how to make a cake to how to make a homemade bomb.

 

Terrorists and hate groups alike have found it easy to set up websites to recruit like-minded individuals from around the world. E-mail can convey instructions, maps, floor plans or anything else a group of terrorists may need from anywhere in the world to a laptop sitting on a desk in Florida. Similarly, money can be sent electronically to a bank account to fund these activities without anyone paying particular notice since it is only one of many millions of such transactions daily.

 

For the F.B.I. or C.I.A. to intercept or trace this activity is a monumental task unless they have some idea of the parties involved and the direction from which and to which information is flowing. Fortunately many electronic  transactions are permanently recorded and once they have a lead this can be followed in many different directions. This has lead to the freezing of monetary assets around the world in the last few weeks.

 

What I find particularly scary is that these same terrorists may have benefited financially from the devastation that these events have caused. Huge amounts of money were invested just before September 11th, speculating that the value of airline stocks would be dropping substantially.

 

Although the airlines were in something of a decline the amounts invested were many times what would have been expected. Again internet trades were involved here as well.

 

CYBER TERRORISTS

 

You have probably heard of the various attacks on websites and e-mail systems in recent months. Systems are hacked into or viruses unleashed that do literally millions if not billions of dollars of damage to computer systems and lost productivity of companies and organizations around the world.

 

I have personally been involved in the eradication of viruses and the repair of software and systems for several clients in the last few months. For a smaller client with 5 or 10 stations this is not a big job. For large websites, universities and government locations this can be a huge job to straighten out. It can be even more devastating if users don’t have good backup strategies, since data may be lost forever in these situations.

 

Firewalls and good anti-virus protection is your best first line of defence. These must be kept up to date almost weekly as new viruses appear all the time and your defence is often only as good as your last update. Internet upgrade contracts are relatively inexpensive. There is no substitute for solid multi-level backups however. From these, almost all electronic records can be salvaged.

 

Because of the huge monetary consequences of some of these attacks, there is a movement to define them as terrorist activities and in fact many of them may be just that. This could result in extreme penalties for such activities up to and including life in prison, if it goes through.

 

I found this scary image floating around on the internet recently. If you type  Q33NY  into Microsoft Word in the largest font available, block it and convert the font to ‘Wingdings’ a frightening image appears.