MIAMI (Reuters) - The hacking and identity theft tools now earning big
money for mainly eastern European organized crime could be used by
terrorists to attack the United States, an FBI official said on
FBI Deputy Assistant Director Steve Martinez said cyber crime was no
longer the domain of teenage geeks but had been taken over by
"Tools and methods used by these increasingly skilled hackers could be
employed to cripple our economy and attack our critical infrastructure
as part of a terrorist plot," Martinez told a conference in Miami on
People had to assume, he said, that terrorists would seek to hire
hackers to "raise money, aid command and control, spread terrorist
propaganda and recruit more into their ranks and, lastly and most
ominously, attack at little risk."
The seminar in Miami, hosted by Florida International University,
focused on the growing incidence of "phishing," in which hackers send
computer users e-mails to convince them to enter financial data or
passwords in fake Web sites.
Victims can compromise their credit cards, bank accounts and even
Martinez, acting head of the FBI's Cyber Division, said the agency had
not seen traditional organized crime in the United States migrate to
the Internet but that eastern European gangs had embraced cyber crime
"They're targeting your money, access to your personal information,
identity. They're doing it on a massive scale. The price of a credit
card number is dropping into the pennies now," he said.
The FBI was trying to convince foreign law enforcement agencies to
crack down on the culprits, he said.
In many former Soviet republics, laws covering cyber crimes were
inadequate and the U.S. Justice Department worked with foreign
governments to fill the legal gaps, he said.
In the meantime, he said the risk of cyber terrorism post-Sept. 11,
2001, should not be ignored.
The Internet could allow attackers to remain anonymous, to strike at
multiple targets from a distance, and escape detection. Critical
infrastructure such as water, power and transportation systems
remained vulnerable, Martinez said.
"In the future cyber terrorism may become a viable option to
traditional physical acts of violence," he said. "Terrorists have
figured out that we have a technological soft underbelly."
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