Oct 28 2001

It’s time to stuff the cyber-nonsense

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Just what we needed: an anti-terrorism commission making recommendations on how to combat cyber-terrorism. The recommendations come from a report by the — hold your breath — the Advisory Panel to Access Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction.

There is nothing cyber about steering a plane into a building or stuffing anthrax into envelopes. It’s time to stuff the cyber-nonsense and do some hard police and military work.

James Gilmore, Governor of Virginia, heads this panel, perhaps in part, because of the state’s long time, vast experience, and familiarity with all forms of terrorism, the most recent of which, I suppose, was the state’s automobile tax. In 1997, then-candidate for governor Gilmore came out four square against a tax on cars, saying “we must preserve the peoples trust and faith in their leaders and their government.”

How naïve of me to have forgotten that the way to preserve people’s trust and faith in their leaders and their government is by rejecting a tax on cars.

Governor Gilmore’s terrorism panel follows on the heels of two previous, serious reports on the subject. The first was in 1999 — two years ago almost to the day of the World Trade Center catastrophe. The report was authored by former Senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, and everything we’re facing today was predicted in that document. A year later, in 2000, the National Commission on Terrorism, headed by Air Force Lieutenant General Paul Bremer, issued another report. That too was excellent.

Yet eight months before the World Trade Center catastrophe, the Gilmore Commission called for a — hold your breath — a secret Cyber Court. Gilmore worries about the “disablement” of the Internet, whatever “disablement” means.

Anyone who believes that a secret Cyber Court would prevent the disablement of the Internet, just doesn’t have a clue about the Internet and what can … and can’t be done.

The shame in all this is that people who carefully put together the earlier Hart/Rudman and Bremer reports enlisted the help of dozens of world-class scientists and world-respected terrorist experts to guide them. The Gilmore Commission has no one on its panel with the slightest degree of experience in computer and cyber security matters. Not one.

Gilmore’s pre-World Trade Center, pre-anthrax, nine-month-old report, recently regurgitated for consideration after these tragedies, devotes a total of five pages out of 191 pages to what it calls “Cyber-Terrorism.” Congressman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) figured this was the time to add his $0.02. Ehlers called for treating what computer hackers do — in his words — as “terrorism and the penalties that hacker get should be commensurate with terrorists [sic] activity, and not considered vandalism and pranks.” Leaving aside the fact that hackers, at least as far as I know, haven’t killed almost 6,000 people in a mass airplane crashing attack.

Governor Gilmore’s terrorism panel called for a — hold your breath — a secret Cyber Court. He worries about the “disable­ment” of the Inter­net, whatever that means.

Anyone who believes that a secret Cyber Court would prevent the disable­ment of the Internet, just doesn’t have a clue about
the Internet.

In fact, as far as I know, not one single person ever died from a hacker Denial-of-Service attack. People may have been prevented from buying a book on Amazon.com or purchasing a DVD player on eBay for a couple of hours, but that’s about the extent of the damage.

And no hacker has ever poured anthrax into an envelope.


I think we need to set some new, serious priorities. The number one priority might be to find and finish off the real, live terrorists — the kind that kill and maim and sicken. Can we spell al Qaeda? Taliban?

If we’re serious about this as a nation, then we have to learn how to combat relatively low-tech terrorist tactics conducted by highly disciplined, religious revolutionaries. There is nothing cyber about steering a plane into a building or stuffing anthrax into envelopes.

We need to remember the poor record of the highly vaunted FBI Hacker-Catcher Unit, the National Infrastructure Protection Center (FBI NIPC). They’ve been able to arrest only a few pitiful adolescent wannabee hackers — and that, only after other hackers told agents where to look. Still, the FBI can be considered a screaming success when compared to local or state cybercops. The arrest and conviction rates by “locals” is nonexistent.

It’s time to stuff the cyber-nonsense and do some hard police and military work.

Still, this might account for why Virginia Governor Gilmore and Michigan Congressman Vernon Ehlers are so hot to have a secret court. That way no one can see that the people directing the secret courts are nothing more than judicial “Emperors” walking around wearing no clothes.

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