A cyber terrorism attack on the UK infrastructure will happen in the next five years, according to the Digital Security Services Manager at BP.The British energy giant will develop technology to protect the organisation and the national infrastructure against a cyber terrorism attack over the next few years, said Rob Martin at the opening of Symantec’s Security Operations Centre (SOC) yesterday.
He revealed that BP had obtained this information through a close working relationship with the British authorities and intelligence agencies, and the company would continue to liaise with these organisations to keep up-to-date with developments.
“I believe cyber terrorism has been over-hyped over the past couple of years,” he said. “But the terrorists will look for gaps in the corporate network to exploit and we need to develop the technology to close these holes and prevent an atrocity.”
Martin admitted that the energy industry is an attractive target to the extremists, because of the potential to cause harm to and disrupt the lives of millions of people.
“A cyber terrorism attack on the energy industry would have a big impact,” Martin said. “An incident of this nature would cause physical harm, plus the loss of power and gas would disrupt the day-to-day lives of millions. Energy companies are an easy target because of the high numbers of people it could affect.”
Martin said that this increased threat is in part due to the next generation of young, computer savvy extremists that are emerging. He believes that they know how to manipulate computer systems, are aware of society’s dependency on computers and will use it to launch attacks.
“Cyber terrorism has been dismissed as a threat, but the terrorists will use computers against us,” warned Martin. “There is no specific danger at present but it will occur. Terrorists are changing. At present they use technology as a communication mechanism, however it is increasingly seen as a tool in reconnaissance activities.”
Art Wong, senior vice president of managed security services for Symantec, agreed with Martin’s comments, but believes most attacks continue to be for financial gain.
“Politically motivated hacking attacks are on the increase,” he said. “In recent months, we have seen the politically driven strikes on the governments of Italy and Estonia. However, this is trend for the future and is unlikely to overtake financially motivated cyber crime.”