Home News Stories 2007 November Real Threats at the Virtual Gates

Real Threats at the Virtual Gates

How Aware Are You?
Of the Dangers of the ‘Net

11/06/07

Director Mueller Speaks at Penn State (2007)“Last April, Estonia suffered what has been called a ‘cyber blockade.’ Wave after wave of data requests from computers around the world shut down banks and emergency phone lines, gas stations and grocery stores, newspapers and television stations, even the prime minister’s office. Although the source of this attack has not been confirmed, the effect was real, and left all of us aware of the potential risk we face. How long before others around the world begin to employ similar tactics?”

“If we lose the Internet, we do not simply lose the ability to e-mail or to surf the web. We lose access to our data. We lose our connectivity. We lose our intellectual property. We lose our security. What happens when the so-called ‘Invisible Man’ locks us out of our own homes, our offices, and our information?”

“[T]he threat is not limited to hackers on the outside. Insiders present a significant problem. Contractors may take the appropriate security measures, but what about those with whom they subcontract and their subs? And what of those who take advantage of open access to research and development facilities on campuses such as this?”

A few pointed questions, raised by Director Mueller during a major address on cyber security at Penn State on Tuesday. Which raises another question: given the growing presence of the web in our personal and professional lives, how aware are you of the risks of attack via the Internet?

A few more realities discussed in the speech:

…The growing intersection of terror and the web. Take the case of Younis Tsouli, the self-styled “Terrorist 007” who not only served as an al Qaeda webmaster but also hacked into servers to get additional bandwidth, used phishing schemes to steal credit card accounts and buy $3 million worth of terrorist equipment, and created a website “that he hoped would become the YouTube for terrorists” called “You bomb it.” Could you fall for a scam or run a server that could end up helping terrorists?

…The rise of bots. Botnets are networks of computers taken over by hackers—usually without their owners’ knowledge. Once under their thumbs, these networks can wreak all kinds of havoc, from shutting down a power grid to flooding an emergency call center with millions of spam messages.

…The “Invisible Man.” According to the Director: “Hackers are using sophisticated techniques to steal sensitive intelligence, scientific research, and communications data. They are difficult to identify and track because they move in and out of international systems at will, and they do not leave broken glass behind. A member of our cyber team describes it as having an invisible man in the room, standing over your shoulder, seeing and hearing everything you do, watching every word you type. And you may never know he is there…who he represents…or how much damage he has done.“

Another important question: what is being done to combat these threats? Please read the speech for details on the FBI’s efforts, including a groundbreaking partnership in Pennsylvania called the “Cyber Fusion Center.” Not to mention our National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, our private sector partnership called InfraGard, our Regional Computer Forensic Labs, and our network of international offices.

To learn how you can help yourself:

- Please see How to Protect Your Computer.
- Please join InfraGard!