Cyber-safer after the death of bin Laden?

Tuesday - 5/3/2011, 9:30am EDT

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden may prompt a cyber retaliation.

The "decapitation of the terrorist movement comes at a time of its substantial decentralization and global dispersal; thus, the danger of further terrorist attacks is not necessarily suddenly reduced," according to national security expert Seyom Brown, director of Studies at Tower Center of Southern Methodist University, as quoted in Government Computer News.

Brown told GCN, "great vigilance against retaliatory revenge attacks is especially needed over the next weeks and months."

The possibility of a cyber attack has both the private and public sectors hustling to upgrade their security software, according to the Associated Press. The urgency to add heavy-duty encryption and data-recovery protections has been especially felt in banking and government, and operators of bridges, tunnels and power plants.

"The one thing 9/11 really brought to life was how organized the terrorists were," said Patrik Runald, who runs the U.S. security lab for Websense Inc., a San Diego-based Internet security firm. "People started realizing, if they're so organized when it comes to physical attacks, what if they were that organized when it comes to cyber attacks?"

The Department of Homeland Security isn't making any drastic changes after the death of bin Laden.

"Our efforts to combat terrorism, however, do not fixate on one individual, and we remain completely focused on protecting our nation against violent extremism of all kinds," said Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement.

Former DHS deputy assistant secretary for policy, Paul Rosenzweig, supported that stance. He told GovInfoSecurity to anticipate an effort by al-Qaida to retaliate, but, in his opinion, "a cyber attack remains a comparatively low probability overall."

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at The Cato Institute, told GovInfo "he has seen little evidence that terrorists are a significant threat to cybersecurity."

Brown pointed out al-Qaida isn't the only terrorist group with a desire to lash out at America and its infrastructure.

"I think others will find it attractive," he said. "It is going to be part of the ongoing security environment in the decades ahead."

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily Cybersecurity Update brought to you by Tripwire. For more cybersecurity news, click here.

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