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Inevitability of war puts US on high alert

The US government has raised its terrorism alert level and has stepped up security for all the nation's critical infrastructure, including the internet.

In conjunction with law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the US Department of Homeland Security  has invoked "Operation Liberty Shield", a national plan designed to increase border security, protect transport, enhance security at critical-infrastructure facilities, increase public health preparedness and make sure all federal agencies can be deployed quickly. 

"The intelligence community believes that terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against US and coalition targets worldwide in the event of a US-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein," Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said, shortly after President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq or face certain attack by the US. 

In addition to specific threats involving the possible use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons, Ridge also warned that Iraqi state agents and surrogate groups, other extremist organisations and ad hoc groups or disgruntled individuals could conduct terrorist attacks against the US or its interests abroad. 

"In recent months, there have been reports of suspicious activity in and around military facilities, ports, waterways, general infrastructure [bridges, dams, power generating facilities)] and targets that are considered symbolic to US power and influence," said Ridge. 

Meanwhile, security analysts at iDefense have warned of increased hacking and malicious code activity in response to any military action against Iraq. 

"It seems probable to conclude that at least some hackers may try to launch denial-of-service attacks against US, Israeli, UK and Spanish targets," an iDefense intelligence report said. "These could include attempts to try to disrupt US military operations by hackers launching DOS attacks against .mil sites or critical infrastructure sites in the private sector." 

IDefense also noted that "Saddam Hussein may have hacker mercenaries or sympathisers who are prepared to launch specific attacks during a conflict, though evidence of that has also not surfaced". 

On March 17, VX Heavens, one of the best-established virus-authoring websites on the internet, posted a protest against the likelihood of war with Iraq. According to iDefense, the text of the protest read, "Stop the Fourth Reich! Stop the Oil War!" 

"This is a strong position taken by the group of malicious code authors at VX Heavens," said the iDefense intelligence report. "It is likely that this group and others in the malicious code scene will soon create malicious code to further protest possible war on Iraq. Organisations should be especially vigilant for unusual e-mails from unknown entities."


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