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by CSO Contributor

Cyberattacks with Offline Damage; Homeland Security for Sale; E.U. Aims to Ease Tensions over Syria

Apr 14, 20033 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Cyberattacks with Offline Damage

Most experts think of cyberattack as something that will happen in the virtual world, and that using online tools against the offline world would be much harder. But according to the Sunday New York Times, a recent paper by Aviel D. Rubin, the technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and two co-authors suggests that there are many gateways connecting the cyberworld with the physical world that are vulnerable to attack. Some experts have talked about hypothetical, sophisticated cyberattacks on real-world facilities that are connected to the Internet, like the power grid and dams. But Rubins paper describes a far more low-tech approach that would constitute a physical attack by using computers to automate tasks and the power of the Internet to disseminate information. A simple hack signing people up for thousands of paper catalogs via companies websites could flood local post offices and make them more vulnerable to something like an anthrax-in-the-mail attack. Why risk unleashing such mischief by writing about it, the Times asks. Rubin writes, If we knew about it and did nothing, and then the attack was launched, we would be guilty of negligence. It is our judgment that the time has come to reveal this threat. In the report, he also describes ways that websites can make the process of filling out forms hard for automated programs to do, in some cases simply by asking the user to answer an unexpected question or to solve a simple puzzle before proceeding. Homeland Security for SaleWashington Post, 19 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, thousands of small and midsize U.S. companies are rearranging priorities, renaming operations, repackaging products, and more or less reinventing themselves to cash in on what they hope will be hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending on domestic defense. Homeland Security Department’s requested budget for 2004 is $36.2 billion, a 7.4 percent increase from fiscal 2003. Of that, an estimated $800 million is designated for science and technology. As a result, industry and government officials said, homeland security is luring as many cash-strapped charlatans as it does cutting-edge innovators. Still, industry experts say the more established government contractors are quietly gobbling up contracts based on existing relationships with federal agencies. (See an August 2002 column on this topic, The Homeland Brand.)

According to a story in todays

E.U. Aims to Ease Tensions over SyriaGuardian, politicians from Britain and other key European Union states are working to calm growing tensions over Syria, which had been stirred up by belligerent statements about the country from Washington. The U.K. papers website reports that Britains foreign secretary, Jack Straw, today made it clear that Syria was not “next on the list” of targets for the U.S. and U.K. coalition forces. But asked whether he believed the country had weapons of mass destruction, he said: “I’m not sure, and that’s why we need to talk to them about it.”

According to a story in todays