FBI Issues Cyberattack Advisory

Escalating tensions between the United States and Iraq could lead to increase in illegal cyber activity, warns FBI.

The FBIs cybersecurity arm is warning that the imminent threat of war with Iraq and escalating tensions with North Korea could lead to increased attacks against U.S. networks.

"Recent experience has shown that during a time of increased international tension, illegal cyber activity…often escalates," the FBIs warning says. This activity can be state sponsored or can originate within another country which is party to the tension. It can be state sponsored or encouraged or come from domestic organizations or individuals independently. As tensions rise, it is prudent to be aware of, and prepare for this type of illegal activity."

The clearest example of these kinds of politically motivated attacks is the brief increase in activity between Chinese and American hackers during the spy plane crisis in 2001. Security experts say there were numerous incidents in which U.S.-based hackers—or those sympathetic to the American stance on the issue—defaced Chinese-owned Web sites, and vice versa.

The attacks followed an incident in which a U.S. surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet, killing the Chinese pilot.

The National Infrastructure Protection Center also discouraged hackers sympathetic to the U.S. cause from launching attacks against Iraqi or North Korean networks and Web sites.

"Regardless of the motivation, the NIPC reiterates such activity is illegal and punishable as a felony," the groups warning says. "The U.S. government does not condone so-called patriotic hacking on its behalf. Further, even patriotic hackers can be fooled into launching attacks against their own interests by exploiting malicious code that purports to attack the other side when in fact it is designed to attack the interests of the side sending it."

The NIPCs warning comes at a time when the country is on guard against what CIA and FBI officials say are credible and specific terrorist threats. In addition to the ongoing preparations for a possible war in Iraq, government and military leaders are also dealing with the possibility of a terrorist strike against U.S. assets here or overseas.