Terrorists use new tools, old tactics

Despite increasing concern about cyberterrorism, a report published this

month by a blue-ribbon panel of experts concluded that the tactics and goals

of the world's terrorist organizations remain low-tech.

The report, "Countering the Changing Threat of International Terrorism,"

published by the National Commission on Terrorism, suggests that although

the terrorist's toolbox has changed with the advent of the Information Age,

the objectives of the world's terrorist organizations have not.

"A growing percentage of terrorist attacks are designed to kill as many

people as possible," the report stated. "Guns and conventional explosives

have so far remained the weapons of choice for most terrorists."

However, terrorists are adopting information technology as an indispensable

command-and-control tool, the report stated.

Raids on terrorist hideouts, for example, are "increasingly likely" to result

in the seizure of computers and other IT equipment, according to the report.

"Instead of just finding a few handwritten notebooks and address books,

counterterrorism authorities are faced with dozens of CD-ROMs and hard drives,"

the report states. Likewise, terrorists' increasing use of advanced encryption

tools often delays the process of finding key files and information.

Terrorists groups, such as the Osama bin Laden organization, have yet to

demonstrate that they value the relatively bloodless outcome of a cyberattack

on the nation's critical infrastructure, but the threat remains real, said

Richard Clarke, national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection

and counterterrorism at the National Security Council.

"There are warning signals out there," said Clarke, who spoke last week

at a conference on cyberattacks and critical infrastructure protection sponsored

by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington,

D.C.

"If we fail to recognize this then we will pay a high price," he said, adding

that "we have the equivalent of enemy [surveillance] aircraft flying over

the target day after day."

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