Information Warfare: April 29, 2003


Among the many dire warnings about Islamic cyberwarriors launching savage assaults on the Internet if Iraq was attacked, all remained quiet on the net during the march on Baghdad. There are several reasons for this. First, less than two percent of Arabs have access to the Internet. With only about eight million Arabs on line, and over a billion non-Arabs, you don't have a lot of hacker talent available for a cyber-Jihad. In fact, past experience has shown that pro-Arab European and American hackers are more likely to launch a noticeable attack on U.S. military targets. But even with all the anti-war sentiment around the world, and among American hackers, nothing happened. Well, not exactly nothing. There were at least 20,000 incidents of website defacement and similar low level "attacks." But these included both pro and anti-Iraq attacks. Nothing major. The most notable attacks were pro-war assaults on al Jazeera websites. 


This lack of activity probably has something to do with the most skilled Internet professionals not wanting to stick their necks out for Saddam. It's one thing to protest the American invasion of Iraq, it's another to risk the FBI tracing a damaging cyber attack back to you, and prosecuting vigorously because the FBI is not in a very generous mood when it comes to "terrorism" these days. But the potential for a damaging attack remains, even if the odds against it are great. The fact of the matter is that if you want to commit a terrorist attack that will kill people, high explosives are still the way to go. You might bring down some major commercial sites for a few hours with a cyber attack, but that will be seen more as an inconvenience than an act of terrorism. And remember, no one has yet managed to kill anyone via the Internet. Terrorists looking for their next target notice things like that. 


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