Attorneys working for the federal government are facing a new kind of threat: those wishing to start a war via the internet. The latest increase in cyber attacks appear to be originating from China, although there have been several originating from Spain in recent weeks. And their targets? The American government and its intelligence computers. The FBI released a warning in late February 2010 that detailed what it calls a "real and expanding threat" of terrorism, or more specifically, cyber terrorism from al Qaeda. "Those attorneys working for the federal government and especially those in areas that deal with terrorism, are facing huge obstacles", says A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder of LawCrossing.com. His warnings mirror those of FBI Director Robert Mueller, who has said that cyber terrorists will either "train their own recruits or hire outsiders" in their efforts to "damage our economy and our psyche". He further warns that many extremists have already taken this to heart and are either receiving orders the FBI has not found or are acting on their own.
Just how much of a threat is cyber terrorism? A. Harrison Barnes quotes recent government figures of 1.6 billion attempts each month. Those numbers are extraordinary and really drive home the urgency of cyber terrorism. China appears to be the biggest threat. Lawyers for Google are attempting to trace what they call a "sophisticated online attack" of its systems that originated in China. The goal appears to have been an effort to collect email accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
What can American businesses do? The LawCrossing.com founder says at this point, it's all about cooperation. "The best way American companies can help in this growing threat is to follow Director Mueller's advice: if your business is targeted, contact the FBI's legal team that's working to track down those guilty". The FBI has promised minimal disruption to any business targeted and every effort will be made to safeguard privacy and data and finally, protective orders will be sought when necessary to preserve trade secrets and business confidentiality.
For now, Director Mueller says the U.S. is receiving international cooperation, noting it is essential to successfully combat online crime. He also said the FBI now has sixty attaché offices around the world, special agents embedded with police forces and a specially trained team of lawyers in countries such as the Netherlands, Estonia and Romania.
Finally, the FBI reminds American businesses that as with all things related to terrorism, there are no overnight solutions and no single cure-all that will eradicate terrorism. There are times it feels as thought the task is overwhelming. Legal teams are working day and night to deal with problems that have never existed before now. New legislation is being written to allow for stronger legal resources for use in dealing with the specifics of cyber terrorism. As one anonymous official said, "It's a slow dance…and we're not leading it".