Computer Crime Research Center

Who were the cyber terrorists of 2002?

More malicious attacks originate from within the US than any other country...

Last year the threat of 'cyber terrorism' in an age of global unrest became an issue for serious consideration, among major companies and security experts alike.

However, according to Symantec's global Internet Security Threat Report the bulk of attacks actually came from outside the select group of countries identified as posing a serious cyber terrorism threat.

In fact, less than one per cent of attacks originated within countries on the Cyber Terrorist Watch List and there were no verifiable acts of cyber terrorism during the study period, which encompassed the second half of 2002.

Far and away the most dangerous nation for originating malicious cyber attacks is the US, which accounted for 35.4 per cent of attacks during the second half of 2002. This was down from 40 per cent for the first six months of the year but well up on the same six month period of 2001 when the US accounted for 29.6 per cent of all attacks.

Second on the list of offenders is South Korea (12.8 per cent), followed by China (6.9 per cent), Germany (6.7 per cent) and France (4.0 per cent).

The UK sneaks into the top 10 in ninth place - accounting for just 2.2 per cent of all attacks, such as viruses, worms or other forms of malicious code.

Symantec also provided a break-down of the results to account for the varying levels of internet use worldwide. For example, it is worth noting the US figure is due in part to the sheer numbers of people online in that country compared to others.

In terms of attacks per 1,000 internet users during the second half of 2002, South Korea was well ahead of every other nation with a 23.7 per cent share. Second on the list, which measured activity in countries with more than one million internet users, is Poland (18.4 per cent) with the Czech Republic (14.2 per cent) in third, followed by France (14.2 per cent) and Taiwan (14 per cent).

The biggest mover on this list was Israel which was by far the most active country in terms of cyber attacks per 1,000 internet users during the previous two half-year periods. However, during the second half of 2002 it fell from first to tenth place.

In terms of countries with fewer than one million internet users Iran and Kuwait were by the far the most prolific in terms of originating attacks.

However, the results should not spark fears of a growing threat of global terrorism - as Symantec revealed, most attacks owe more to simple opportunism than targeted aggression. Only 24 per cent of attacks were targeted against specific companies or organisations.


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