December 8, 2005
Al Qaida and other terrorist groups are more sophisticated in their
use of computers but still are unable to mount crippling
internet-based attacks against US power grids, airports and other
targets, the FBI's top cyber crime official said on Wednesday.
Investigators keep a close watch on terrorist groups' use of computers
but have not detected any plans to launch cyber attacks against major
public institutions in the US, FBI assistant director Louis Reigel
"I don't think that capability exists today," Reigel told reporters at
The government has conducted simulated terrorist attacks on computer,
banking and utility systems, and Reigel said his division of around
1100 agents took the prospect of such a strike seriously.
FBI experts had noticed progress in the technical mastery suspected
terrorists had shown online, he said. One new wrinkle first appeared
four months ago, he said, without being specific.
Terrorists also had made only infrequent use of steganography, the
practice of hiding a text message in another kind of file, typically a
picture, Reigel said. "It looks like a picture, but if you have the
right program, you can extract a text message embedded in a picture,"
said Reigel, a 31-year FBI veteran who formerly led the New Orleans
On another matter, the FBI still had no suspect in the spread of the
latest version of a Windows worm that began appearing last month as
emails purporting to come from the FBI, CIA and German security
services, Reigel said.
The third version of the Sober worm spread so quickly and widely that
at one point the FBI was bombarded with 200,000 emails a minute over
four days, he said. "It almost killed our system," Reigel said, before
technicians developed a means to divert the messages.
Unlike with earlier versions, "this time we believe we have enough
information to where we can pursue a logical investigation," he said.
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