Internet May Threaten National Security
During the next 15 years, the U.S. will face a new breed of Internet-enabled terrorists, criminals, and nation/state adversaries that will launch attacks not with planes and tanks, but with computer viruses and logic bombs, according to two reports released last month.
Although the 68-page report by the
Many countries already have programs to develop such technologies and "could develop such capabilities over the next decade and beyond," according to the NIC study.
A report by the Washington-based
"The U.S., Russia, China, France, and Israel are developing cyberarsenals and the means to wage all-out cyberwarfare," the CSIS study says.
China is of particular concern, say experts, because it's devising strategies for unrestricted electronic warfare. Officials say critical infrastructures in the U.S. could be targeted in the future as revenge for incidents like the 1999 accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia.
"They suggest having every person in China send one e-mail to [an address] of interest in the U.S. or use hacker tools easily available on the Internet to support a mass [denial-of-service] attack," says John Shissler, a former military intelligence officer.
Online extortion and falsification of shipping manifests by criminals, and attempts by countries to use hacking techniques to evade trade sanctions are a rising concern, says Jeffrey Hunker, senior director for critical infrastructure protection at the White House.
Hunker says officials are also becoming increasingly concerned with the proliferation of "always-on" Internet appliances, such as modems and network printers. Hackers are finding ways to penetrate these devices and possibly use them as launching pads for more devastating distributed denial-of-service attacks, he says.
Last year a hacker cracked into a printer at the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Center and rerouted a potentially sensitive document to a server in Russia.
Stephen Northcut, director of the Global Incident Analysis Center at the SANS Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, says that in one day recently, his cable modem-equipped laptop received 54 probes, 2 of which penetrated his personal firewall. "Our systems come to us hackable," says Northcut. "It's a feature."