Feds Fear Possible Al Qaeda Cyber-Attacks
Thu Jun 27, 1:43 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. government experts, wary of al Qaeda's skills on the Internet ( news - external web site), are concerned that Osama bin Laden ( news - web sites)'s guerrilla network may be planning cyber-attacks targeting nuclear power plants, dams or other critical structures, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
An FBI ( news - web sites) investigation of suspicious surveillance of key computers discovered "multiple casings of sites" nationwide, the report said, citing a Defense Department summary of the probe.
Routed through telecommunications switches in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan, the visitors studied emergency telephone systems, electrical generation and transmission, water storage and distribution, nuclear power plants and gas facilities, the Post said.
U.S. officials said some of the mysterious computer probes targeted a class of digital devices that allow remote control of such things as fire dispatch services and pipelines, the newspaper said.
U.S. law enforcement and national security officials cited by the Post said information about those devices, including how to program them, turned up on al Qaeda computers seized in January by U.S. forces in Afghanistan ( news - web sites).
A computer taken from an al Qaeda office contained models of a dam, made with structural architecture and engineering software, that enabled the planners to simulate its catastrophic failure.
Bush administration officials declined to say whether they had identified a specific dam as a possible target, the newspaper said.
U.S. investigators also have found evidence in the logs that mark a browser's path through the Internet that al Qaeda operators spent time on sites that offer software and programming instructions for the digital switches that run power, water, transport and communications grids, the Post reported.
The newspaper also said some al Qaeda prisoners have told interrogators about intentions, in general terms, to use those tools.