Computer Crime Research Center


Cyber-terrorism becomes national priority

Date: March 27, 2008
By: Mark Ballard

THE UK government has marked the internet as one of the three most serious threats the nation has to face from terrorists.

The National Security Strategy, published yesterday, was vague about how exactly the UK would fortify itself against cyber attack.

But it said it would monitor international internet traffic.

And the broader proposals could mark the end of life as we know it in Britain.

It's premise was a complex interplay of threats including ecological disaster, disease, crime, burgeoning world population, dwindling food and energy resources, terrorism and starker inequalities of wealth would challenge Britain's unusually prosperous world position.

These were transnational threats like none that have faced the world before, it said. While hostile threats were more likely to come from independent people than other states. Surveillance of British subjects was therefore a central plank of the proposal.

Along with the economy and the global demands of population, the internet was one of the three greatest vulnerabilities for the UK, said the report.

"Our investment in responses to new threats, such as cyberattack, will potentially help us in responding to a wide range of different hostile actors – from terrorist networks to trans-national crime networks, and from non-state actors to foreign states," it said.

But it spoke vaguely about how it would tackle this threat. It would become a greater priority for the security services.

There was also a brief reference to the "interception modernisation programme ", of which the government has said very little since it announced vaguely in February.

"We are also investing, through the interception modernisation programme, to update our intelligence and law-enforcement capability to meet the challenges of rapidly advancing communications technology," it said.

But it did promise to monitor international internet traffic:

"We support international efforts to monitor and protect the safety and security of new technology including the internet and communications networks," it said.

It proposed a radical change to life in Britain, though suggested that Britain's fortifications should not alter British life.

It said that "crowded places (including cinemas, theatres, pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and commercial centres, hospitals, schools and places of worship" should be barricaded against terrorist attack.

Buildings should be made from "blast-resistant materials" to protect from " car-bomb attack" and communities should be prepared for such possibilities.

Suspected criminals and terrorist should be tracked through borders using sophisticated surveillance technology and data about suspects should be shared internationally, with the G8 and UN countries, as well as the EU where police forces are already establishing links between

It proposed: "Developing new systems to ensure the rapid and secure exchange of information including DNA records, vehicle information, foreign criminal records, stolen goods, and passenger data".

By 2011, 95 per cent of people who travelled through British borders would be checked against a police database, or "watch-list". The use of such a list in the US has led to the harassment, torture and incarceration of innocent people by the border security services.

There should be more covert intelligence within Britain's borders as well, it said. The Identity Card scheme was a central plank of the security plan. Barriers between the police, security and services and civilian government departments would be pulled down.

Military, security and civil spending on surveillance technology would be increased. The distinction between foreign and civil policy measures, and between military and civilian response to perceived threats, would be removed.

This sounded like a similar EU strategy that has been dubbed by Statewatch, the civil liberties campaign group, as the security-industrial complex, after President Eisenhower's 1961 warning against the unwelcome influence of powerful military business interests on civilian life. The military firms produce much of the surveillance tech that is being turned on civil society.

However, the report appeared to wrest control for security from the hawks. It's most important thread are its Brownite concerns for international development and equality been peoples: tackling the causes of terrorism, if you like.

It also called for diplomacy over war, an acceptance that life involves risk, and a measured response to perceived threats. It was nevertheless, a pessimist's document. It is a pessimist's subject.

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