RealNews

Official: Cyberterror fears missed real threat

When airliners crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, the nature of the attack took America’s defenders by surprise. They were expecting hackers. “We were very shocked in the federal government that the attack didn’t come from cyberspace,” said Marcus Sachs, cyber program director in the Department of Homeland Security. Speaking at the Black Hat Briefings here Thursday, Sachs ran through the history of the U.S. government’s interest in information operations and “cyber terrorism,” the Tom Clancy-esque theory that rogue nation states and terrorist groups would attack the U.S. by hacking into the computers controlling critical infrastructures, like the electric grid or air traffic control systems. From the Pentagon’s 1997 “Eligible Receiver” exercise, which demonstrated that military computers were vulnerable to disruption, through the 1998 “Solar Sunrise” intrusions traced to two California teens and their Israeli mentor, to the mysterious “Moonlight Maze” hack attacks against unclassified defense systems, defense thinkers in two administrations looked with dread to cyberspace in the idleness that followed the end of the Cold War. In 1998, President Clinton responded to the cyber terror fears by signing Presidential Decision Directive 63, launching a broad public-private partnership aimed at locking down electronic security holes. Full Story

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