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Mark Grossman

Thwart CyberTerrorism with Planning

27 September 2001

Today began like every other since that catastrophic day. I watched the news to learn of any events that may have occurred while I slept. Next, I contemplated that I needed to write a column, and I felt so uncreative. Numbness and anger don't usually foster creativity.

I don't know what I will do in the end to make my contribution to the war effort, but I know that today I am fortunate enough to have this column as a forum. This week, I decided that I would use it to help.

As this war begins, our technological prowess stands as one of our trump cards.

In World War II, car manufacturers built tanks, entrepreneurs with no experience in shipbuilding built ships, clothing manufacturers became uniform manufacturers and so on. So too will our e-commerce-sputtering, dotcom-tech economy become a vibrant part of the war machine.

Our economy must be healthy to build, rebuild and sustain what it will take to fight the coming protracted war. Last week, you needed to guard your information technology systems against cybercrime, sabotage, interception of private e-mail, viruses, denial of service attacks and other threats just because it was good business. Today, you have another reason--we are at war.

Good business should have been enough reason to act, but for the most part America has done a horrendous job of dealing with computer security.

Nobody knows what's coming next from our enemies, but cyber warfare has been a known risk for years. In a column I wrote in February 1999, I said: "Everyday, more commerce and sensitive information flows over the Internet. This dependence on electronic information makes for an inviting target for a new breed of terrorist that some are calling 'cyberterrorists.' "

I don't quote myself so that you can congratulate me about writing about the risk two and a half years ago. I do it so that maybe I can establish some instant credibility with you.

Cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare are real threats. Could you imagine the damage to our economy if our enemies close Wall Street next time, not with planes filled with innocent people, but by hacking into and disrupting Wall Street's computer networks? What if we all had to stop using e-mail because they found a way to bring the Internet to its knees?

It's a mistake to label our enemies as insane because it makes them seem weak. They're fanatics, but quite sane and extremely intelligent. Never underestimate your enemy in war.

The right way to fight a war is to assume that the enemy is smarter, more capable and better prepared than you are. With this as the starting point, you will never make the mistake of complacency. In war, complacency kills people.

My expertise is technology so that's where I can offer advice.

You must immediately develop your disaster plan with terrorism in mind. Do you maintain backups off site and far away? You must insure that your information technology infrastructure has state-of-the-art security in place. You should consider greater use of encryption for sensitive corporate information. I'll have more to say on these subjects in coming weeks.

Thwart CyberTerrorism with Planning is republished from
Mark Grossman
Mark Grossman