Terrorists Use New Tools, Old Tactics

Despite increasing concern about cyberterrorism, a report published this month by a blue-ribbon panel of experts concluded that the tactics and goals of the world's terrorist organizations remain low-tech.

The report, "Countering the Changing Threat of International Terrorism," published by the National Commission on Terrorism, suggests that although the terrorist's toolbox has changed with the advent of the Information Age, the objectives of the world's terrorist organizations have not.

"A growing percentage of terrorist attacks are designed to kill as many people as possible," the report stated. "Guns and conventional explosives have so far remained the weapons of choice for most terrorists."

However, terrorists are adopting information technology as an indispensable command-and-control tool, the report stated.

Raids on terrorist hideouts, for example, are "increasingly likely" to result in the seizure of computers and other IT equipment, according to the report.

"Instead of just finding a few handwritten notebooks and address books, counterterrorism authorities are faced with dozens of CD-ROMs and hard drives," the report states. Likewise, terrorists' increasing use of advanced encryption tools often delays the process of finding key files and information.

Terrorists groups, such as the Osama bin Laden organization, have yet to demonstrate that they value the relatively bloodless outcome of a cyberattack on the nation's critical infrastructure, but the threat remains real, said Richard Clarke, national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism at the National Security Council.

"There are warning signals out there," said Clarke, who spoke last week at a conference on cyberattacks and critical infrastructure protection sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

"If we fail to recognise this then we will pay a high price," he said, adding that "we have the equivalent of enemy [surveillance] aircraft flying over the target day after day."

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