Generation gap affecting cyber terrorists, too

Monday - 11/1/2010, 7:57pm EDT

Jeffrey Carr, author, "Inside Cyber Warfare: Mapping the Cyber Underworld"

Download mp3

Time is ticking on our government's ability to stop cyber terrorism. But the clock may have more ticks than people think.

"The cyber threat of terrorism is relatively low [but] not because they don't have the technical capabilities," Jeffrey Carr told Federal News Radio. Carr is author of "Inside Cyber Warfare: Mapping the Cyber Underworld" and a principal at GreyLogic.

"In our investigations, we see a lot of very highly skilled engineers that are part of an extremist religious organization that get involved in hacking of one type or another. The skill level [is] there."

So why haven't they used their skills? "Because the leadership of those cells are old guys. Their preference is a physical type of attack - destruction. Even if an internet-savvy extremist were to propose some type of cyber attack, I suspect it would just get shelved."

But Carr believes the time is coming.

"Five years, maybe seven or eight years from now, I think we'll definitely see the cyber terror aspect of this increasing, as more internet-savvy terrorists assume leadership positions, and the old leadership dies off. You have a little bit of time not to have to worry about irrational, terrorism-driven attacks. You don't have the time to sit back and allow the attacks that we're currently experiencing, which are under the radar - very subtle. They have to do with stealing intellectual property."

He cited Russia/Georgia as an example of cyber conflicts, but said individuals and governments have been thinking about, and planning for, such events "way before that."

"All the way back to the Marsh Report in 1997, there were concerns about the security implications of the Internet," Carr said. "You can go back and see that some of the same problems exist today that existed 13 years ago. It's not a new problem."