By George Jones
Terrorists could attempt to cause economic chaos or plane crashes in an
electronic attack on the UK's computer networks John Reid, the Home
Secretary, said yesterday.
Mr Reid's warning of the "devastating consequences" of cyber terrorism
came as he said the reshaping of the Home Office would enable him to
"wake up and think about the security of the nation first and foremost
The Home Office is to be split on May 9, to concentrate on crime
reduction, terrorism and mass migration, with Mr Reid directly
accountable for assisting the Prime Minister in co-ordinating the
Government's security strategy.
Mr Reid said priority was being given to protecting what he described as
the country's critical national infrastructure from terrorist attack.
He said al-Qa'eda's aim was to "bleed us to bankruptcy", by attempting
to "cripple" financial markets. Western energy supplies were among
targets threatened by the terrorist group.
While attacks on oil supplies would cause "incalculable damage", Mr Reid
said there was now an additional threat of a terrorist assault on the
West's 21st century electronic communication systems.
According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, cyber terrorism is
any "premeditated, politically motivated attack against information,
computer systems, computer programs, and data which results in violence
against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine
agents". A cyber terrorist attack is designed to cause physical violence
or extreme financial harm.
The U.S. Commission of Critical Infrastructure Protection says possible
cyber terrorist targets include the banking industry, military
installations, power plants, air traffic control centres, and water
A report to the US House of Representatives on "cyber terrorism" in 2000
said attacks on computer networks and the information stored in them
could cause death or injury through explosions, plane crashes, water
contamination as well as severe economic loss.
Such attacks ranged from computer viruses that wiped information from
computers, to hackers bombarding Nato computers with "email bombs"
during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.
Mr Reid admitted that "scaring people does not produce security". He
said the public, business and the government had to work together to
protect the national infrastructure.
The "pace, scale and intensity of innovation our adversaries are capable
of allows no room for complacency."
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