Terrorists use new tools, old tactics
- By Dan Verton
- Jun 26, 2000
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,
"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."