Conference members say cyber threats are the nation’s “electronic Pearl Harbor”

Thursday, September 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

One of Tulsa's biggest industries is being targeted by a new kind of criminal. It's happening nationwide. Computer and telecommunications systems are becoming more vulnerable to cyber terrorism. The recent computer hacker invasion at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida illustrates this new type of crime. Some experts are calling the potential for cyber terrorism "an electronic Pearl Harbor" just waiting to happen.

This week, the nation's top cyber terrorism experts have gathered to address the growing problem. A problem that currently has a damage estimate totaling billions of dollars. They’ve chosen Tulsa as their forum. "Tulsa is the network capital of the world,” noted Keating. “Companies like Williams Companies, TV Guide, Sabre, Worldcom, there's a lot of fiber optics that comes in and out of this city. There are a lot of communications mediums that are in this city. People who deal in this area know how very fragile the system could be," the governor said.

When you think of terrorism, pictures of violent acts like the Alfred P. Murrah building bombing in Oklahoma City come to mind. In the ge of the Internet, there's a new twist on terrorism. Attacks that can come through seemingly harmless names like Melissa, and the Love Bug. "Those attacks were launched by thrill-seeking hackers,” said the University of Tulsa’s Sujeet Shenoi. “Imagine what would happen if a foreign power or rogue nation were to do something like that - systematically." "Vulnerablities or weaknesses exist in the system, and those vulnerabilities and weaknesses can be exploited by someone anywhere on the face of the earth,” said National Security Agency spokesperson Michael Jacobs. "Now we have a situation where literally, just to do mischief, a 15-year-old person can create an act, create a havoc act, that shuts down the financial systems of the United States," explained Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating.

It's not just large organizations that are at risk. Cyberguard protects corporations and government agencies from computer hacking, but whose information do you think they're guarding? "You wouldn't want someone to be able to go in and move money from one account into another account,” said CyberGuard Firewall’s Cynthia Sucher. “You have to provide a secure environment for information." Including a forum for the technology to stay ahead of cyber terrorists.

The University of Tulsa was recently designated a Center of Excellence by the National Security Agency that's one of the reasons the conference is being held there. The workshop runs through Friday.