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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Hack attacks on the rise
Operator at nuclear power station
Critical infrastructure could be next target
August has been a record breaking month for malicious hackers with 2002 set to become the worst year for digital attacks on record, according to security firm mi2g.

The number of hack attacks in August reached 5,830, it reported.

The total for the first eight months of 2002 reaching over 31,000 - more than the total for the whole of 2001.

Digital attacks have been steadily rising. Conservative projections suggest there could be up to 45,000 hack attacks across the globe in 2002.

Infrastructure in danger

If the US attacks Iraq then expect further chaos in cyberspace, warned mi2g Chairman DK Matai.

Hack attacks
1998 - 269
1999 - 4,197
2000 - 7,821
2001 - 31,322
2002 - 45,000+
"It would seem highly likely that the launch of a physical attack on Iraq will see counter-attacks from disgruntled Arab, Islamic fundamentalist and anti-American groups," he told BBC News Online.

Cyber terrorism has been an increasing threat to digital security since the Balkan war and China-Taiwan stand-off in 1999 saw offline conflicts mirrored online for the first time.

According to mi2g, organised cyber terrorism groups have become increasingly sophisticated in 2002.

It says they have now begun to gather detailed information on economic targets within financial services, manufacturing, transport and utilities.

Employees in these sectors are increasingly being asked security questions about their networks on bulletin boards, said Mr Matai.

He urged firms, especially those in sensitive industries, to look at detailed personnel vetting and to keep a close eye on voice and data communications.

Political tensions

Critical national infrastructure such as power stations, water and sewage treatment plants as well as major communication and transportation hubs could be the next targets.

The US war on terrorism and heightened tension between Israel and Palestine, and India and Pakistan, has prompted pro-Islamic hacker groups to come together to launch digital attacks on the US, the UK, Israel and India.

"Despite laws that have been passed which qualify digital attack as terrorism," said Mr Matai, "we could see the US and its allies supporting the war on terrorism attacked digitally as we head towards 11 September and the weeks building up to the proposed attack on Iraq."

See also:

27 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
16 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
17 Sep 01 | Science/Nature
10 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
28 Apr 01 | Americas
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