By David Leppard
The Sunday Times
March 11, 2007
SCOTLAND YARD has uncovered evidence that Al-Qaeda has been plotting to
bring down the internet in Britain, causing chaos to business and the
London Stock Exchange.
In a series of raids, detectives have recovered computer files revealing
that terrorist suspects had targeted a high-security internet hub in
The facility, in Docklands, houses the channel through which almost
every bit of information on the internet passes in or out of Britain.
The suspects, who were arrested, had targeted the headquarters of
Telehouse Europe, which houses Europes biggest web hotel, containing
dozens of servers , the boxes which contain the information that makes
up the web.
Security experts say the plot against Britains internet hub reflects the
constantly changing threat from Al-Qaeda and related Islamic extremist
Last year MI5 uncovered intelligence which suggested that Islamic
terrorist suspects had carried out reconnaissance of the huge Bacton
complex of gas terminals on the Norfolk coast. The threat led to the
deployment of armed guards around the plant.
A senior Whitehall security official said the internet plotters appeared
to be planning to infiltrate the hub, possibly to blow it up from the
inside, according to evidence on a computer hard drive seized in raids
on the homes of terror suspects in southern England last year.
The Telehouse facility was the subject of intense reconnaissance. The
evidence suggests that it was one of a range of options considered by
the suspects, the official said.
The discovery led Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5, to set up the
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure last month. It is a
special MI5 unit to help to protect infrastructure sites from terrorist
attacks, such as telecommunications, the internet and key utilities such
as oil, gas installations and nuclear power stations.
Without these services, the UK could suffer serious consequences,
including severe economic damage, grave social disruption, or even
large-scale loss of life, the MI5 website says.
The Telehouse hub is nicknamed CTU after the counter-terrorist
headquarters in the American television series 24. It is designed to
provide back-up power for all Britains vital network services in the
event of a large-scale terrorist attack elsewhere.
Yesterday the company confirmed that it was required to go on a
heightened state of alert last year, when security officials say they
uncovered the plot. It declined to discuss the threat but said it wanted
to reassure its customers that it was doing everything possible to
protect itself from terrorism.
Robert Harris, its technical services director, said: Major co-location
companies such as Telehouse are strategically important organisations at
the heart of the internet.
Security and business continuity are critically important. Our industry
remains as alert as possible to any threat, terrorist or otherwise, and
we are in regular communication with the appropriate authorities.
The climate in 2006 required a heightened state of alert. In 2007 we
remain in this heightened state of awareness to any such security threat
and are in regular dialogue with the authorities.
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