Terrorists are using the internet to attack Western military and defence targets, according to the author of a new book on computer crime.
Journalist and internet crime specialist Peter Warren claims he has found evidence that known terrorist organisations have been using the internet to attack US businesses involved in defence contracting. Warren, whose book Cyber Alert was published last month, says the US Government has begun an urgent investigation into the cyber attacks which are believed to originate in the Middle East.
The evidence of the attacks comes in the form of unusual flows of internet traffic showing that concerted attacks by cyber ‘armies’ have been made against the selected targets.
Cyber attacks coming from Middle East
“We have been speaking to a number of people involved in the mapping of traffic patterns on the data and they have told us that there would appear to be a what are known as bot attacks coming from the Middle East,” said Warren.
“One of the companies used by BT and the US Government to identify what are known as ‘behaviour anomalies’ have confirmed that odd patterns of data have been coming from the Middle East but declined to say any more about it because of the sensitivity of the issue.”
Up till now bot attacks – bot is short for internet robot – have been mainly used by criminals to blackmail gambling sites by inundating them with internet messages. The criminals threaten to crash the lucrative gambling sites unless they are paid protection money.
These so-called ‘bot armies’ normally are made up of networks of household computers that have unwittingly downloaded a rogue computer program from the internet. This programme then assumes control of the computer and uses it to send thousands of automated messages, all directed by the criminal or terrorist in charge.
Messages that are then added to those from other hijacked computers to cause an irresistible flood of data to the target, known as a denial of service or DoS attack.
“We have been told by credible sources that Hizbollah was inviting visitors to its Arabic site to download a bot program that ‘donated’ their computer to Hizbollah so they could be used for bot attacks.
“We have also been told by technology suppliers to the US defence industry that they have been selling large amounts of equipment to their clients who have complained to them that their computer systems and websites are increasingly coming under DoS attacks and that they are being forced to buy technology to cope with the attacks,” says Warren.
Hizbollah is a Shiite resistance movement formed for the liberation of the Lebanon and other Israeli occupied territories, that became notorious for the bombing of the barracks of the US Marines and French headquarters in Beirut in 1983, which killed 300 soldiers of the Multinational Force.
Concerted software attacks
Bot attacks on the websites and communications of US defence companies offers terrorists a tempting opportunity to combine an expression of popular discontent with a technique that can disrupt and slow the US military supply chain while also hitting the US at home.
In Cyber Alert, co-author Warren claims that close ties between Chechen crime gangs and Moslem terrorists have led to the development of funding links between pornographic websites and terror organisations.
The South Korean authorities claimed last autumn that North Korea has recruited a team of 500 computer hackers to wage cyber war on the US and other Western countries.
Cyber Alert is published by Vision Paperbacks