Lloyd’s Explores Terrorism/Internet Threats

August 27, 2009

Politico-social trends are rarely static; they evolve over time. Terrorism is no exception. An article on the Lloyd’s of London web site (www.lloyds.com) notes that “today’s extremists are just as intent on causing headline grabbing death and destruction – but they also see the potential of the internet as a tool to disrupt the world of commerce and to finance their activities.”

Terrorists in the 60’s and 70’s also had blood agendas. Germany’s Red Army Faction, or Baader-Meinhoff Group, launched arson attacks on department stores, murdered industrialists and robbed banks as part of their anti-capitalist assault on the West.

Governments aren’t standing still in the face of new threats. In the UK, the Government has published a cyber security policy as part of its updated National Security Strategy. A dedicated Office of Cyber Security in the Cabinet Office will coordinate policy across government and look at legal and ethical issues as well as relations with other countries.

“The initiative encompasses protecting businesses and individuals from fraud, identity theft and e-crime,” Lloyd’s notes. “Launching the strategy, security minister Lord West warned that future targets could include key businesses, the national power grid, financial markets and Whitehall departments.”

He told the BBC: “We know terrorists use the internet for radicalization… but there is a fear they will move down the path of cyber attacks… As their ability to use the web and the net grows, there will be more opportunity for these attacks.”

In the U.S. President Barack Obama has announced plans for a cyber security office in the White House. He said that America’s digital infrastructure should be treated as a strategic national asset from now on and that he planned to appoint a cyber tsar. Acts of terror today, he said, could come “not only from a few extremists in suicide vests, but from a few key strokes of a computer—a weapon of mass disruption”.

Cyberspace is a growing source of exposures for companies and governmental institutions and that includes cyber terrorism and cyber extortion, explained Paul Bantick professional liability underwriter at Lloyd’s insurer Beazley. “Contrary to popular belief, the people involved are not eccentric individuals but are more likely highly motivated, sophisticated and organized groups—whether criminal or political.” he noted.

Beth Diamond, claims manager at Beazley, says that financially motivated cyber attacks have been traced to Eastern Europe; and she says that the politically motivated threat posed by North Korea to disable networks in the West is well documented. “But domestic threats exist too and could be more of a danger. Young, smart, tech-savvy groups could use cyberspace to make a political statement,” she warned.

The full article is available on the Lloyd’s web site, as well as additional information in Lloyd’s “360 series.”

Source: Lloyd’s

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