Naked City

Coming to a PC Near You!

"Cyberterrorism -- is it real?" asked Mark Fabro, techno security superstar and chief security scientist of AMS Corporation, during his keynote address at the Internet Security Forum for Texas State Government. Held April 26 at the Jake Pickle Research Center, the conference was intended to raise questions about citizens' access to government services in the event of a cyberterrorist attack in Texas.

Fabro kept things light, often exclaiming, "This is cool!" while identifying methods for gathering secret information. And he made jokes about the weaknesses of our national security system, such as "syn flooding." According to Fabro, syn flooding affects computers that use portions of their memory to communicate with one another; hackers can shut down a computer by hitting it with thousands of requests to communicate. While the computer is busy replying to the communication requests, it drops its normal service -- say, maintaining the core temperature inside a nuclear reactor -- and bingo! You've got a disaster in the works.

Cyberterrorism threatens human life in other ways, Fabro continued. Computers control dams, hospitals, and EMS units, and despite all of the fears of flying produced by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, today's high tech air traffic control systems are more easily hijacked than the airplanes themselves. (In March 1997, for example, "cyberterrorists" knocked out the runway lights at the airport in Worchester, Mass.) The NYSE, FAA, IRS, DoD, NASA, and many other government and big business organizations have been "hit" in the last few years, he said.

According to Pickle Conference Director Bob Bechtel, Fabro's address was intended to "raise consciousness" among the 200 state employees that turned out to hear him. Other speakers included Douglas Mazina, a senior technician at Microsoft, who presented a nuts-and-bolts presentation on how to make state computer systems secure; and Mel Mireles, the state director of Enterprise Operations, who discussed the newly created Texas Office of Information Security.

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