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The Thoughts of Charlotte Moores - Aged 8

"I'm not doing anything anymore"

The Enemy Within

However hard I attempt to escape the subject of information security, it acts like a gravitational ‘Black Hole’ and I’m pulled back into commenting on the most recent story or disaster or both.

CW360 reported this week, that NISCC (The National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre) has raised the prospect of cyber-attack by Islamic groups, as a consequence of any possible – read probable – war with Iraq.

While this isn’t quite the same as a ring of steel around Heathrow, for NISCC to pop-up with a warning of this kind, illustrates how worried or indeed paranoid, The Home Office is becoming. It’s interesting to note that Symantec most recently pointed at Iran and Kuwait as the most frequent source of cyber-attacks but what NISCC appears to be more concerned about is the threat from ‘The enemy within’, a ‘fifth column’ of cyber-militants, described as ‘terrorist-groups “who may actively seek to plant people inside IT departments of critical organisations”.

I think we all understand that while such militants might not look like Ozzie Bin Laden in a suit, there’s enough politically correct information contained in the story for some organisations to feel more comfortable about clean-shaven IT staff that aren’t sporting an eye patch and two hooks.

The public sector, in particular, is feeling more than a little vulnerable at this time and this question of a possible fifth-column has been entertained for over a year now but rarely, if ever finds any public expression because of the sensitivities involved, the Home Office being an equal opportunity employer, a policy which extends to extra-curricular activities they would rather not think about.

Do I think there will be a crippling attack on our national infrastructure? No. I think there is a real possibility of serial inconvenience but nothing more, this year anyway but maybe next. Curiously enough, the IT Manager of a large metropolitan council told me last week that most of the attempts to attack his own local authority originate in the public libraries, not quite what UK-Online had in mind I suspect?

As a result of all the warnings over the last three months, I’m glad to see that some large businesses are taking the warnings seriously and are ‘beefing-up’ there security posture. Unisys has just signed a (£1.6m) deal with Lloyds TSB to provide managed security services for the bank and there’s evidence that the only rosy glow in the IT business at the moment, surrounds the provision of security in one shape or another.

This brings me back to the question of a ‘Fifth column’ again. Until the ‘War against terrorism’ is resolved we are condemned to a life of constant paranoia in a struggle against a hidden enemy. IT may be more defensible than the Underground but like the dual use of London’s congestion charge cameras; the consequence offers us an increasingly nervous and restrictive society which can’t defend itself from a well-coordinated attack against infrastructure, aircraft or indeed people.

So ‘Be Prepared’ is the best advice but prepared for what is anyone’s guess.


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