The director of the CIA this week said the US will set up a defense center to combat the growing threat of terrorists and criminals out to bring down vital network systems. CIA Director John Deutch said the threat of organised information warfare is likely to grow, raising the prospect of an "electronic Pearl Harbour."
In fact, reports are now circulating in Europe and the US that the banking community has already caved in to electronic extortionist gangs. The Times of London last month ran stories claiming that since 1993, banks in the UK have paid millions of dollars in an least four attacks from blackmailers who showed they could crash computer systems at will. Although skeptics doubt the reports, some experts back the claims. Winn Schwartau, president of security consultancy Interpact Inc., said two banking officials at the recent International Banking Information Technology Forum in Basel, Switzerland, told him that four banks have together paid the equivalent of $US100 million to cyber-bandits who brought down computer systems. Another security expert, who asked for anonymity, claimed that one bank branch in Cornwall, England had its teller terminals and CRT screen blanked out or garbled for three days by bandits who pointed High-Energy Radio Frequency (HERF) devices at them. Microwave-based HERF guns were developed by the military to disrupt computer systems. The security expert also said he was now at a Las Vegas casino, where he is investigating what appears to be an HERF attack by cyber-bandits there.