Impact on Confidence of War with Iraq - Asymmetric Risks
London, UK - 20 February 2003, 13:00 GMT - At a closed discussion
event hosted by VISA this evening, 25 senior executives from the insurance,
reinsurance and banking industry will get together to discuss the impact on
business confidence of the pending US/UK military action against Iraq and
asymmetric threats from Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Digital
and Suicide (CBRN-DS) means.
The event is being held under Chatham House rule and the speakers will include
Professor Lord Desai, Director of the Centre for Global Governance at the
London School of Economics, Bill Emmott, Editor of The Economist and DK Matai,
Chairman and CEO of mi2g.
There will also be senior representatives from the House of Lords, Royal
United Services Institute, American Institute of Foreign Study, Centre for
Environmental Risk, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Worshipful Company of
Information Technologists, the Association of Insurance and Risk Managers
(AIRMIC) and specialist law firms.
DK Matai's speech will focus on the unintended global consequences of the
war with Iraq. Key points made will include:
"Disaffected groups are beginning to acquire the means to execute
asymmetric attacks on the West through CBRN-DS means blended with conventional
physical attacks. Whilst we may think in the local context, it is becoming
apparent that radicals are thinking in global terms and range from one-man
operations, like the Shoe Bomber, to larger and more diffuse terrorist groups
that are trans-national."
"There is growing concern about 'Command and Control' digital attacks,
which would impact the critical national infrastructure such as: financial
services, telecommunications, electricity production and distribution, water
storage and distribution, nuclear power plants and gas facilities. This would
require extensive insider help and there is evidence to suggest that insiders
have already been discovered in some cases who were planted on a long-term
"In recent months, information about critical infrastructure has
been ferreted via the Internet and scanning of critical infrastructure components
has become more frequent; this has been traced back to IP addresses in Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan and Indonesia."
"Sophisticated computer programs used by engineers to find stress
points and weaknesses in buildings, bridges and dams had also been found at
the tail end of 2001 and early 2002 in computers belonging to suspected Al-Qaeda
members in Kabul, Afghanistan. So even if the ability of a terrorist organisation
to conduct direct attacks against critical infrastructure is limited, digital
attacks can be used as a highly effective reconnaissance tool to enable more
effective physical attacks."
"Especially when considering digital attacks, it is unlikely that
governments will choose to remain oblivious to such assaults on their citizens
and their livelihoods given the economic damage being caused. Successful overt
digital attacks - as opposed to scans, attempts or covert attacks - are predicted
to follow the trend, albeit more slowly, established over the last seven years
and could number between 120,000 and 140,000 worldwide in 2003. Blended attacks
- physical attacks synchronised with digital attacks - could materialize in
the coming two years. Although new viruses and worms released in 2003 may
reduce, the damage caused by a few killer viruses or worms - some politically
motivated - will remain in Billions of Dollars."
"If the war with Iraq in early 2003 materialises, USA will remain
one of the most attacked countries digitally followed by other NATO member
countries and allies. Successful and verifiable attacks against the US are
likely to be between 80,000 and 100,000 in 2003."
"There will be increasing consolidation and unity in 2003 between
fundamentalist and anti-capitalist hacker groups with a united agenda against
Western interests. The Israel-Palestine conflict, the Allies' War on Terrorism
as well as the India-Pakistan issue on Kashmir will continue to bring fundamentalist
hackers closer to each other. The war with Iraq will accelerate this process."
"As digital crime proliferates in 2003, unsuspecting individuals
and small to medium size businesses with broadband access could also become
surrogates for increasingly targeted Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
attacks as well as providing cover for terrorists."
"The vacuum left behind post the removal of Saddam Hussein's power
base in Iraq could trigger political power fluctuations around Gulf countries
such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain as well as Iran and Central Asia.
This would affect energy prices, business and consumer confidence. It may
well spur a wave of asymmetric CBRN-DS type attacks against the West."
"Post war Iraq is a huge challenge for the leadership of Western
democracies. Images of millions of dislocated Iraqis or their lack of appropriate
protection post the bombings from death or disease would not help the perspective
of a just war."
"It would be critical for any participating leader to have dealt with
the Iraq situation successfully without causing severe economic disruption
- from terrorism or loss of business confidence - at home."
"Equating hacker groups with terrorist organisations that kill people
with powerful explosives may not be justified. Having said that, the biggest
threat could still be a blended threat: digital attacks that cripple emergency
response, transport or telecommunications with some insider help, could be
employed by terrorists in conjunction with conventional or CBRN-DS attacks
to magnify the effects of their intended disruption and damage."
On the issue of timing, DK Matai will state, "It is only a matter
of time. Blended global threats of CBRN-DS type terrorism coupled with conventional
attacks from fundamentalist groups will materialize in the West and it will
be difficult to predict the full impact of such attacks on health care, financial
services, government services, transport and distribution."
"Asymmetric warfare relies on global mobility and access to local
specialist knowledge. We need to be extremely alert in order to thwart globally
organised attacks targeting the West."