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End of Days

Everyone can sleep safe this Xmas. I’ve been made an honorary Special Agent of the Office of Special (Computer) Investigations & Operations and have an authentic piece of brass to prove it.

You may have noticed, that there’s no such thing as an ‘ordinary’ agent; the runaway success of the X-files made all of us agents equally special and with my black Armani suit and my dark glasses, I’m looking forward to taking up the open invitation to Washington for a guided tour of the top secret facility which collects all Santa’s email.

This week, of course, I’m looking forward to 2003 and I’m going to ‘buck’ the doomsday trend, which had my wife asking whether wrapping the Terrier in cling-film might be protection against a possible VX Gas attack on Wimbledon Common.

IDC and other ostensibly responsible and informed sources, are predicting, that galvanised by a war against Iraq, a “A major cyber terrorism event will occur that “will disrupt the economy and bring the Internet to its knees for at least a day or two”.

You’ll note that this isn’t a possible war, one with the full support of the United Nations but rather, “the war”, a match fixture on a date to be arranged, which as a one time Royal Marine, fails to stir my enthusiasm.

Although there’s plenty of evidence that diverse political interests, Hamas, the Iron Guards and others, are increasingly leveraging the Internet as a potential target of opportunity, personally, I don’t subscribe to the ‘catastrophic’ school of thought for 2003. I could of course be terribly wrong but activity of the kind to date has involved relatively low intensity denial of service and business interruption, annoying, expensive but not sophisticated or organised enough to bring the West to its knees quite yet.

Terrorism, I argued at the High-tech Crime Conference has a perverse entertainment value and while the information infrastructure represents the soft-belly of the developed world, large explosions and other acts of terror have far more visual and emotional impact on CNN.

In my opinion, while 2003 will be a year of increasing business disruption as corporate weakness is increasingly probed from outside the firewall, it won’t be they year that sees all the power stations on the US North-east coast switched off in the depths of Winter by a determined hacker – one of the scenarios that was considered - .

Given the sorry state of information security on a global basis, built on a “bed of Swiss cheese” as I’ve described it, there’s an inevitability surrounding some kind of high-profile ‘Take-down’ of a large institution for either criminal or political motivation. My advice to all our readers is that your first New Year’s resolution should involve a reassessment of your information security policy, be prepared, remember the lessons of Y2K and don’t be encouraged into a sense of paranoia by the prophets of digital disaster.

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