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by CSO Contributor

How Tiny Swiss Cellphone Chips Helped Track Global Terror Web; What Are Hackers Thinking; Virus Writers Compete; Animal Diseases Threaten Humans; Nuclear Warnings Wont Sound in Parts of Canada

Mar 04, 20044 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

How Tiny Swiss Cellphone Chips Helped Track Global Terror Web

According to a story in todays New York Times, the terrorism investigation code-named Mont Blanc began almost by accident in April 2002, when authorities intercepted a cellphone call that lasted less than a minute and involved not a single word of conversation. Investigators, suspicious that the call was a signal between terrorists, followed the trail first to one terror suspect, then to others, and eventually to terror cells on three continents. The Times reports that investigators now say that for two years they were able to track the conversations and movements of several Qaeda leaders and dozens of operatives after determining that the suspects favored a particular brand of cellphone chip, which carries prepaid minutes and allows phone use around the world. Senior officials in the United States and Europe agreed to talk in detail about the previously undisclosed investigation because, they said, it was completed. They also said they had strong indications that terror suspects, alert to the phones’ vulnerability, had largely abandoned them. The Times says the investigation caught dozens of suspected Qaeda members and disrupted at least three planned attacks in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, according to counterterrorism and intelligence officials in Europe and the United States.What Are Hackers Thinking?Network World Fusion story profiles the behaviors of some hackers, crackers, carders and thieves, suggesting that knowing their favorite attack patterns and motivations can lead to better network security. The story covers three real cases to analyze the attackers’ behaviors and motivations, including tips from Adrian Lamo, a white hat hacker who pled guilty to accessing The New York Times computers without permission.

A recent

Virus Writers CompeteThe Register today. New versions of the Bagle worm make derogatory comments about the Netsky worm’s creator within their virus code, while three new Netsky worms designed to remove Bagle and MyDoom infections from infected PCs have also appeared in recent days. In apparent response, the people behind MyDoom have released an updated version of their malware, MyDoom-G, which is not disabled by Netsky. IT Vibe quotes Sophos Antiviruss Graham Cluley: “The Bagle and Netsky worms are battling for pole position at the moment as the viruses hitting end users the hardest&. This skirmish is a nuisance for computer users, of course, who are seeing the worms clogging up their email systems. On the other hand, The Reg story poses, perhaps its an elaborate smokescreen. Maybe the picture of three rival gangs fighting it out on the Net is deceptive.

The unknown authors of the Netsky and Bagle worms may be battling in cyberspace for control of vulnerable Windows PCs, according to a story in

Animal Diseases Threaten HumansThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution, experts said this week that in order to protect humans against constantly evolving new disease threats, public health will have to turn its attention in a new direction: toward the health of animals. Three-fourths of the new diseases that have menaced mankind over the past 20 years, and 11 of the 12 most dangerous bioterrorism agents, are animal diseases that have gained the ability to infect humans, researchers said at the Fourth International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

According to a story in

Nuclear Warnings Wont Sound in Parts of CanadaThe Toronto Star. Pickering council has said it wants no part of $1.5 million worth of sirens and other hardware paid for by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) that should have been installed at 27 locations in Pickering and two other sites. Regional officials say a 2000 consultant’s report concluded that sirens and an in-house alert system are the best ways to notify people living close to plants of a potential problem that could require evacuation. The provincial nuclear emergency plan requires the municipality to notify the 20,000 people who live in a three-kilometer (1.86-mile) radius of the Pickering plant within 15 minutes of a nuclear emergency. Pickering Councillor Maurice Brenner said the proposed new emergency alert system, which also includes a “black box radio” for every home within three kilometres of the plant, would upset residents and be “a threat to local property values.” Now that Pickering has rejected the system, it will be up to provincial emergency planning officials and OPG to decide what to do next, the Star reports. It quotes one official saying, “I suppose if they decide to go to a different system of alerting then OPG will have to find a buyer to take the sirens off its hands. That shouldn’t be too hard with all the public safety concerns in the U.S. today.”

Sirens intended to warn Pickering, Ontario, residents of a safety risk at the nearby nuclear plant are gathering dust in a warehouse after local politicians refused to install them, calling them Cold War “monstrosities” and a threat to property values, according to a story in