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UK counter terrorism forces are gearing up for an expected increase in Al Qaeda-led ‘cyber jihad' and lone terrorist attacks in the future, as the tools and information needed to carry out such attacks become increasingly widespread online, according to a new report.

The Home Office Counter Terrorism Strategy said that, although there has been "no evidence of systematic cyber terrorism" as yet, there has been related terrorist activity since the first recorded incident in 2010.

"The so-called 'here you have' virus, responsibility for which was claimed by the Tariq bin Ziyad Brigades for Electronic Jihad, was relatively unsophisticated but a likely indicator of a future trend," the report revealed.

"Since the death of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda has explicitly called not only for acts of lone or individual terrorism but for 'cyber jihad'."

The internet has been one of the primary conduits by which lone terrorists receive guidance on how to achieve their aims, and the threat will grow as the "tools and techniques needed for cyber attack become more widely available and the success of criminal cyber operations becomes more widely known", the report added.

The report authors admitted that UK counter terrorism agencies need to increase their understanding of how terrorists use the internet, and that international co-operation is vital.

"Law enforcement action to remove terrorist material hosted in the UK has been effective, but we know that the same content can simply relocate to foreign servers where it is immune from UK legislation," the report said.

"Our most important single relationship is with the US which is by far the biggest provider of internet hosting services in the world."

Priority will also be given to educating the public on how the internet can be made a "more hostile environment" for terrorists.

"Groups will continue to benefit from off-the-shelf technology in planning and conducting attacks, making operations more secure and potentially more lethal," the report concluded.

"The internet and virtual space will be strategically vital."

The government has already committed £650m to its cyber security strategy, which is overseen by the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance.

Details on how and where the money will be spent will be provided when the National Cyber Security Strategy is published later this year.

Mark Darvill, director at government-grade security vendor AEP Networks, believes it unlikely that a terrorist group would have the necessary resources to launch a sophisticated attack on the UK's critical national infrastructure, but warned that it would be dangerous to dismiss lower level attacks.

"Cyber warfare continues to present a very real threat to our national security, and is moving rapidly up the government agenda," he said.

"As the gatekeeper of our national security, the government must ensure that the highest levels of security are in place to protect our national intelligence.

"The government needs to ramp up the security of our network infrastructure in the same way that it prepares for other conflicts."

John Lyons, chief executive of the Cyber Security Protection Alliance, called for centralised reporting mechanisms so that any suspected terrorist web content is forwarded to the relevant law enforcement agency.

"Equally you would expect systems and services which can trawl the internet looking for this type of thing using key words and metadata," he told

"Quite often business sectors have capabilities and solutions they're using in their own domain which don't cross-fertilise into other areas [such as law enforcement]."

Cross-posted from: 
6/17/2012 03:55:41 pm

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