As if you don’t already have enough to worry about, the director of the National Security Agency is telling the public that the digital anarchist group “Anonymous” will have the capability to shut down portions of the nation’s power grid in the next few years. Law enforcement already has good reason to dislike the group since they published personally identifiable information of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police, including names, addresses, social security numbers, and credit card information.
My first reaction is that shutting down the power grid would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face to a hacker. After all if the grid goes down, what’s going to power the PC and the Internet that these cyber punks use? The hardware that somebody else paid for (probably a hacker’s parents) would be inert plastic and silicone without power.
Imagine to my surprise when I read from the Wall Street Journal that Anonymous has promised to shut down the Internet on March 31st. This grand prank is code-named “Operation Global Blackout.” According to the Journal article, the probability of Anonymous actually pulling this off is extremely small, but it does indicate that this group intends to graduate from cyber prank to cybercrime and, finally, cyber terrorism. Some in the NSA envision scenarios in which Anonymous is used by established terrorists such as Al Qaeda to attack critical infrastructure… say… Wall Street.
Other infrastructure critical to law enforcement includes NCIC, local first responder Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I). Statewide law enforcement databases may present an attractive target to these cyber punks.
So what can the average cop do to prevent all of this? Not too much, except don’t make a hacker’s life easier by disregarding Information Assurance (IA) policies. The department laptop in your squad car could be a gold mine… especially if you pasted your password on the case. Be a friend to your department’s geek. Keep a tight leash on any thumb drive you use for work. Be aware of threats such as pfishing, spear pfishing, social engineering, and password cracking software. Report anything suspicious to IA personnel.
Another thing… remember the great bust that went down because of a warrant from a trash pull? What’s in your office trash? Become one with the shredder, grasshopper.
Bruce Bremer, MBA is LET’s technology contributor. Bruce retired from the Submarine Service after 21 years of in-depth experience with complex electronic technology. Since then, he has been involved in fleet modernization and military research analysis. He teaches electronics and alternative energy at a Virginia college. Besides his MBA, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer networking. He has been volunteering in public safety for many years.
Learn more about this article here: