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Electronic Terror Threats

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    Banking, using electricity, going to a hospital -- everyday services we rely on may be vulnerable to terrorists. (Published Friday, June 24, 2016)

    Banking, using electricity, going to a hospital — everyday services we rely on may be vulnerable to terrorists.

    Local cyber security expert John Moynihan of Minuteman Governance is concerned, following the Orlando massacre, that terrorist groups are capable of radicalizing Americans to carry out cyber warfare on key private institutions.

    "It would be dangerously naive for us to not think about, and prepare for, the fact that similar radicalization could take place in the cyber realm," Moynihan said.

    He says the attacks could be carried out from "nerve centers" of these critical infrastructures.

    "There are many reports that terrorist groups are trying to develop cyber capabilities, and the best way they could carry out a cyber attack is radicalizing an IT person with authority within a network," Moynihan said.

    Moynihan, who's spent the past 20 years detecting insider threats, says a dangerous virus could be carried into a company on flash drive by an employee, something that would normally be detected through a firewall if the attack was from the outside.

    "There are not many checks and balances for privileged superusers," Moynihan said. "For regular IT people or regular users that are logging onto the computer, there are controls, but if you are a privileged user, you have tremendous flexibility within an organization."

    Just this week, National Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in Washington, saying national security in 2017 will now transition into new realms, like protecting Americans from cyber electronic warfare.

    As for what what steps we can take to minimize the risk, Moynihan believes it's two-fold.

    "One is really aggressive robust background screening, looking at someone's social media activity, talking to ex-employers," Moynihan said, adding, "Companies have to aggressively monitor activities of IT staff, see what they're doing, are they installing software."

    Carter said the 2017 budget denotes funds to cyber electronic warfare here at home.


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