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Could Cyber-Terrorism Bring Down The United States?. Prepared By: Scott Andrews National Collegiate Conference Presentation March 31 st 2007. Cyber-Terrorism Scenario. Distributed Denial Of Service attacks have began to plague American Websites.

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Could Cyber-Terrorism Bring Down The United States?

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could cyber terrorism bring down the united states

Could Cyber-Terrorism Bring Down The United States?

Prepared By: Scott Andrews

National Collegiate Conference Presentation

March 31st 2007

Distributed Denial Of Service attacks have began to plague American Websites.
  • Nine of the 13 DNS root servers that route Internet traffic globally have become infected.
  • As a result critical nodes have been unable to service the Internet backbone.

Source: Http://

Within minutes, Internet traffic across most of North America has come to a complete standstill.
  • The U.S. DoD computers have been crippled.

Source: Http://

One hour after the cyber attack terrorists launch a missile.
  • This weapon emits an EMP charge which destroys everything with a microchip or integrated circuit.
  • Everything with an electronic component has been damaged without repair.

Source: Http:// 72-a.gif

Mass hysteria and refuges.

Source: Http://

Breakdown of the American Economy.
  • Potential for the loss of human lives within the weeks and months to come.

Source: Http://


Currently, the United States is not equipped to deal with a major cyber attack on its homeland.

For example, look at the chaos during hurricane Katrina.

cyber terrorism
  • This presentation will address:
    • Cyber-terrorism- What is it?
    • What constitutes a critical infrastructure.
    • An in depth analysis of cyber-terrorism will be explored.
    • What can be done to prepare the United States for a perspective cyber attack.
    • Steps the Federal Government must take to protect the country from cyber based attacks.
what is cyber terrorism
What is Cyber-Terrorism?

Cyber-Terrorism- according to FEMA:

“Unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks, and the information systems stored therein when done to intimidate, or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

what is a critical infrastructure
What is a Critical Infrastructure?

Critical Infrastructure- according to the US Patriot Act:

“Systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the U.S. that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or anycombination of those matters.”

physical vs virtual boundaries
Physical vs. Virtual Boundaries
  • The United States has always been protected by its isolated existence until the birth of the Internet.
  • In cyberspace there are no physical or geological borders.
  • A person in Iran or North Korea for example could attack the United States without even touching American soil.
  • The cyber attack could then pave the way for a physical attack on Critical Infrastructures.

Source: Http://

why choose a cyber attack vs a conventional attack
Why Choose A Cyber Attack vs. A Conventional Attack?
  • Terrorists would not need to commit considerable resources such as funding or training.
  • Only minimal technology is needed. All a terrorist would need is a computer and a high speed Internet connection.
  • There are many online resources available.

Source: Http://

documented cyber attacks against the united states
Documented Cyber Attacks Against The United States
  • In 2001, the Code Red and NIMDA computer viruses attacked United States systems in both the public and private sectors.
  • Research has indicated that it would have taken 2 to 3 months of security audits to find the vulnerabilities that both viruses exploited.
  • Code Red infected over 150,000 computer systems in only 14 hours (see graphic).
  • NIMDA had infected computers in almost every part of the globe in less than an hour. Globally the damage was estimated at $13 billion.

Source: Http://

humanity greatly depends on the internet for survival
Humanity Greatly Depends On The Internet For Survival
  • Information Systems maintain the distribution of food and medicine across the supply chain to consumers.
  • Information Systems regulate the stock market and banking systems.
  • Information Systems are used by the Department of Defense to monitor and maintain U.S. national security.
  • The breakdown of the Internet and related technologies for an extended period of time could endanger human lives and could be the downfall of our civilization.
could the breakdown of critical infrastructures happen by accident
Could The Breakdown of Critical Infrastructures Happen By Accident?
  • In 2001, a freight train derailed in a Baltimore tunnel and started a massive fire while underground.
  • Fiber optic cabling that serviced the Internet backbone ran through the tunnel and was damaged.
  • As a result, along the Eastern Seaboard there was no Internet Service or the service was considerably slow.

Source: Http://, 0,1855948.photogallery?index=8

who is to blame for cyber terrorism
Who Is To Blame For Cyber-Terrorism?
  • Many unfriendly nation states have cyber-terrorism and cyber warfare units. These include:
    • Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
  • All of these countries listed could possibly bring down civilian and military critical infrastructures if given the chance or opportunity.
  • Think of cyber warfare a a “poor man’s atomic bomb.”

Source: Http://

government simulation eligible receiver
Government Simulation“Eligible Receiver”
  • In 1997, the NSA implemented a simulation to measure the vulnerabilities of the DoD and National Security computer systems.
    • 35 NSA agents posed as hackers.
    • The agents were only allowed to use any online resources and not break any U.S. or International laws.
    • With little effort the agents were able to break into the U.S. Pacific Command where they could have crippled the entire Pacific Fleet of Operations.
    • The breeches of security were never detected.
government s report card on cyber security
Government’s Report Card On Cyber Security
  • In 2003, the Washington Post printed a story that many IT professionals are worried about the Government’s ability to defend against a major cyber attack.
  • A survey was conducted by the House Government Reform Subcommittee On Technology with disturbing results.
  • Over ½ of the Federal Agencies surveyed received a “D” or “F.”
  • The DHS that is entrusted to protect the U.S. against terrorist attacks received an overall “F.”

Source: Http://

how to protect the united states
How to Protect the United States?
  • Home and small business users must employ Internet Security Suites with anti-virus and firewall software.
  • Large Enterprises (corporations, educational institutions, or government organizations) must have adequate information security policies in place.
  • Critical infrastructures (public and private sectors) must unite and share information about security weaknesses.
  • There must be more research and development in the area of cyber security.
hardware software vendors need more regulation
Hardware & Software VendorsNeed More Regulation
  • For example, CISCO and Microsoft have had security vulnerabilities with some of their products.
  • At times both companies have not released information about the proper patches within a reasonable amount of time with the of fear of loosing any market share.
  • The Feds must employ regulations on the reporting of such vulnerabilities and their should be financial penalties if information is not released.
what should the federal government do
What Should the Federal Government Do?
  • The Federal Government must set up regulations on the reporting of security vulnerabilities in IT products.
  • IT companies should be obligated to notify the DHS if they have any evidence that any security vulnerability was exploited by hackers or terrorists.
  • There should be strong penalties if any vulnerability was exploited and not reported especially if any personal information was lost or stolen.
  • Businesses, IT companies, and ISPs must have strong and sound computer security policies in place.
  • The United States most likely will face a major cyber attack in the next decade.
  • Historians have labeled this day an “Electronic Pearl Harbor.”
  • Computers and the Internet are two of mankind’s greatest accomplishments and humanity depends on these for its survival.
  • If the United States takes the proper steps to secure its critical infrastructures and cyberspace an attack might not be prevented however, its impact and after effects could be greatly minimized.
In order to prevent ourselves from creating our own extinction, Americans as well as our government and its political leaders must understand the differences among cultures in the world.

Quote from the late President John F. Kennedy:

“Our problems are manmade – therefore, they can be solved by man…No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings…

Our most basic common link is that we all inhibit this planet. We breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal”


Cyber-Terrorism Are We Prepared?