Jim Kouri
Wikileaks retaliation perpetrated by "hacktivists"
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By Jim Kouri
December 12, 2010

Domestic and foreign terrorist organizations, foreign intelligence actors, and criminal enterprises are increasingly using encryption technology to secure their communications and to exercise command and control over operations and people without fear of surveillance.

This week, a new threat emerged in the world of cybersecurity: "hacktivists" have openly launched retaliatory attacks on businesses, organizations and even governments, shutting down their websites for hours or days, in protest over actions taken against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

"We are witnessing a cyber war, the likes of which have not yet been seen," said Randall Nichols, professor and director of the cybersecurity programs at Utica College. "But the reality is that this is the battlefield of the present and the future."

The WikiLeaks' posting of stolen classified information has highlighted the tension between the intelligence community's strategy of "share to win" and the necessity to enforce "need to know."

Commanders in the field understand the advantage that comes from sharing intelligence and information and they do not want to give up that capability, according to Jim Garamone, an American Forces Press Service staffer.

Since the Wikileaks incidents, the Pentagon has put in place methods to minimize such thefts of classified materials. "It is now much more difficult for a determined actor to get access to and move information outside of authorized channels," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in a written statement following publication of news articles on the documents Sunday.

The theft of the materials traces to the lack of sharing of information and intelligence prior to and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The commission studying the environment at the time found that agencies weren't sharing enough information with each other.

The cyber threat confronting the United States is rapidly increasing as the number of actors with the tools and abilities to use computers against the United States or its interests is rising. The country's vulnerability is escalating as the US economy and critical infrastructures become increasingly reliant on interdependent computer networks and the World Wide Web. Large scale computer attacks on US critical infrastructure and economy would have potentially devastating results.

Cyber threats fall into two distinct categories: threats affecting national security that emerged with Internet technology, such as cyber terrorism, foreign-based computer intrusions and cyber theft of sensitive data; and traditional criminal activity facilitated by computers and the Internet, such as theft of intellectual property, online sexual exploitation of children, and Internet fraud.

In both categories, cyber attacks, intrusions, illicit file sharing, and illegal use of cyber tools are the basic instruments used by perpetrators. Domestic and foreign terrorist organizations, foreign intelligence actors, and criminal enterprises are increasingly using encryption technology to secure their communications and to exercise command and control over operations and people without fear of surveillance. The Federal Bureau of Investigation must be able to identify and penetrate the command and control elements of these organizations and actors.

Recognizing the international aspects and national economic implications of cyber threats, the FBI created a Cyber Division at the headquarters level to manage and direct this developing program. The rapid evolution of computer technology, coupled with the creative techniques used by foreign intelligence actors, terrorists, and criminals, requires investigators and computer security professionals to have highly specialized computer-based skills.

The FBI Cyber Program uses a centralized, coordinated strategy to support crucial counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigations whenever aggressive technical investigative assistance is required. The Cyber Program also targets major criminal violators with a cyber nexus.

The FBI must increase its capability to identify and neutralize enterprises and individuals who illegally access computer systems, spread malicious code, or support terrorist or state-sponsored computer operations. The Bureau must proactively investigate counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigative cyber related threats having the highest probability of threatening national security. To do so requires the FBI to constantly upgrade its skills and technology to meet the evolving threat.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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